More property tax concerns

I received a call last week from the daughter of a Shelburne resident. Her mother filed her homestead declaration, which was due on April 15, with the Tax Department a few weeks late. The mother received no credit against her August property tax bill, and the Tax Department refused to tell her what the amount of her credit will be when its applied to her November property tax bill. I called the Tax Department, and learned that the Tax Department will notify towns on September 15 of the proper amount of the credit to make against property tax bills for taxpayers who filed late forms. Tax Department policy is not to give information about the amount of the adjustment to a taxpayer in this situation before September 15. Theres been a serious cash flow change for people who receive the adjustments. Two years ago, the taxpayer received a check in July. Starting last year, the adjustment for Shelburne residents was reflected equally over property tax installments in August, November and March. For this elderly resident who filed a few weeks late, she wouldnt even know until September about the amount of her adjustment in order to try to plan how to pay her November and March property tax bills. The average property tax adjustment in Shelburne last year was almost $1,700. While its not much money in a $3 billion state budget, its a lot of money for a property taxpayer. The delay in receiving the benefit of $1,700 caused by changes in the law is painful for many taxpayers. . Normally, the Tax Department advises taxpayers to go to the Tax Department website and use a calculator program to estimate the amount of their property tax adjustment. This isnt useful for a resident who doesnt have a computer and doesnt know how to use one. Because I complained, the Tax Department sent the Shelburne resident a worksheet showing their calculation of her tax credit. This isnt acceptable. People shouldnt get better service because they complain. Every Vermonter should get good service. The basic problem is that the Legislature has passed laws that are so complicated that most taxpayers cant understand them and its difficult for state and local officials to administer them. Its easy for mistakes to happen. If a mistake happens, like this taxpayer who filed her return a few weeks late, the consequences can be substantial. Ive heard from taxpayers who received no credit because tax returns seem to have disappeared, and its almost impossible for taxpayers to prove that they filed timely returns. Other taxpayers have had problems with mortgage companies that escrow property tax payments and inaccurately reflect these property tax credits. I opposed this complicated property tax credit system, but while we have it we need to make it work as well as possible. Ill work with the Tax Department to try to improve service for taxpayers. Ill continue to work in the Legislature to simplify these laws. I learn about the impact of these problems by talking with Shelburne residents. If you have questions or concerns, please call me at 802-985-2329 or e-mail me at jerrecart@usa.net. Ill be at Brueggers Bagels in the Shelburne Bay Shopping Plaza Saturday mornings in September and October from 8 to 10 a.m., along with Bob Lake, a candidate for the Vermont House from the Shelburne 5-2 district. Please come and share your perspectives with us. Joyce Errecart is the Representative for Chittenden County, District 5-1 in Vermont. Her column appears regularly in the Times Sentinel.

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