11/10/2011 11:41 EST | Updated 01/23/2014 06:58 EST

New Brunswick government turns to tax man to collect on unpaid tickets, fines

FREDERICTON - New Brunswickers who owe money to the province may get a surprise if they're expecting a tax refund next year.

In an effort to collect on overdue accounts, the province is turning to the Canada Revenue Agency for help.

Finance Minister Blaine Higgs says with the province's net debt expected to exceed $10 billion by next year, the government needs to collect on overdue accounts.

He said as of March of this year there was a potential to collect about $200 million.

"In light of the provincial government's difficult financial situation, we have an obligation to recover these funds on behalf of taxpayers," Higgs said in a statement.

The government will target unpaid vehicle fines, court fines, social assistance overpayments, and unpaid loans or bills for the Department of Agriculture, Aquaculture and Fisheries.

But Higgs said the province must show it has tried to collect on overdue accounts before they can be referred to the Canada Revenue Agency.

Higgs said the government doesn't want to impose financial hardship on low-income individuals.

"Every effort will be made by departments to work with debtors in developing repayment arrangements," said Higgs.

In some instances, such as cases of social assistance overpayments, debtors may request consideration from the provincial government for financial hardship. If their request is approved, then their account will be removed from the program until their circumstances improve.