Just in time for Christmas, about 275 Columbia County disabled veterans should receive a little extra cash as refunds for property tax overpayments finally are ready.
“I am in the process of signing disabled veterans’ checks,” said Columbia County Tax Commissioner Kay Allen. “They are going in the mail Monday.”
That’s the first batch. About another 75 still need more research, or her office can’t find the veteran listed, she said.
The refunds, averaging around $1,100, are due to 100 percent, service-connected disabled veterans who applied for, and were approved for, a higher homestead exemption. The federal government raised the amount veterans were to receive starting in 2007, but the information never made it to local officials.
As a result, county tax offices around Georgia have been scrambling to identify the veterans entitled to receive the refunds, and to calculate how much they were owed, and for which years, since the changes took effect. County officials had hoped symbolically to send out the checks before Veterans Day, but were slowed by the details of calculating the individual refunds.
“The whole process has been very complicated,” Allen said, and resulted in more than 40 hours of overtime from her staff just to get the first batch of checks ready.
Each check will be accompanied by a letter asking the recipients to cash or deposit the checks as soon as they’re able, Allen said, to allow her office to account for the funds’ disbursement.
Because the more than $400,000 total of the refunds wasn’t budgeted for the current year, county officials had to get the money from fall tax receipts due to each of the government entities in the county: Columbia County, the school board, and the cities of Harlem and Grovetown.
The school board had to give up the biggest share, about $250,000.
Allen emphasized that since news of the overcharges broke back in July, her office has heard from many veterans asking about refunds and finding they aren’t qualified for them. The checks are due only to 100 percent service-connected disabled veterans who already had that specific homestead exemption prior to 2012 and who had been overcharged in any of those previous years, she said.
Veterans who believe they might qualify for the exemption can apply between Jan. 1 and April 15 for next year’s property taxes, Allen said – but they wouldn’t be due a refund from past years’ taxes.