Senior Legal Line - July 2009A legal question-and-answer column for seniors. This month's topic: Can an ambulance service take my tax refunds or renter’s credit rebate for payment without your permission?
Dear Senior Legal Line:
My renter’s credit rebate (also known as “renter’s refund”) was not forwarded to me but instead was taken through the Revenue Recapture Program. It was taken to pay an unpaid ambulance bill that was not covered by my insurance. The ambulance service said it was able to get paid by my tax refunds or renter’s credit rebate. Is this legal?
Yes, the Minnesota Department of Revenue can sometimes aid in the collection of unpaid debts for certain entities or agencies. The Revenue Recapture Program allows certain entities to collect unpaid debts by getting your tax refunds or renter’s credit rebates before they ever get to you. The entities that are allowed to do this are strictly controlled under Minnesota Statutes §278.03 and often are limited to municipal entities of one sort or another. In case of an ambulance bill, a municipal ambulance service can use the Revenue Recapture Program. Municipal ambulance services are usually identifiable as they may contain the name of the municipality town, county or township. Private ambulance services can use the Revenue Recapture Program if they are licensed under certain requirements and if that ambulance service area is located in at least part of your county. However, private ambulance services have to rely on a county to be their “claimant agency.”
If the ambulance service is a private company, any notice letters of revenue recapture that you receive should come from the county in which the private ambulance primarily services under Minnesota statutes §278.08. If the private ambulance service does not comply with this requirement it would be a defense in a hearing and you may get back the money that was “recaptured.” To challenge this revenue recapture you must timely request a hearing.
Whether or not the letter comes from a private company, municipality, county or other government entity, you have the right to request a hearing within 45 days of the mailing of the original notice of the revenue recapture. Any request for a hearing should be made within those time limits and in writing. You should sign, date and keep a copy for your records of any written notice for a hearing. You may also want to contact an attorney, whether it is a private attorney or this Senior Citizens’ Law Project Attorney, to assist you. We have had experiences where a request for a hearing got no response. Again, in such a situation, an attorney can follow-up with an administrative hearing. Such non-responsiveness from the opposing party shows the importance of you keeping a copy of your written request for a hearing. Your notice and request may be an issue in a hearing.
In short, if you receive a non-municipal ambulance letter notifying you of revenue recapture and it has not been sent by a county, you have a defense against this revenue capture.
This column is written by the Senior Citizens’ Law Project. It is not meant to give complete answers to individual questions. If you are 60 years of age or older and live within the Minnesota Arrowhead Region, you may contact us with questions for legal help by writing to: Senior Citizens’ Law Project, Legal Aid Service of Northeastern Minnesota, 302 Ordean Bldg., Duluth, MN 55802. Please include a phone number and return address. To view previous articles, go to: www.lasnem.org. Reprints by permission only.