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Why would anyone fail to check their tax bill?

Posted: August 22, 2012 - 12:07am

You’d think some things go without saying.

Wear your seat belt. Don’t lock a kid in a hot car. Don’t run with scissors.

Yet unbelted people die in car crashes all the time. Last week, eight children around the country died in hot cars. We’re not aware of scissors-related accidents, but surely there must be some.

It would only seem reasonable to assume that some people either just don’t get the memo, or choose to ignore it at their (or someone else’s) peril.

That was the case with a Grovetown couple who never opened their tax assessment notice from Columbia County in May. They just tossed the letter on a desk, assuming the mortgage company would take care of it.

As it turns out, a clerk in the assessor’s office had accidently keyed in an extra decimal for their property. Instead of a 2.09 acre suburban lot, they were shown sprawling on a 2009-acre estate with a value of $22 million.

Because they never opened that envelope to double-check the county’s work, that assessment went unchallenged and automatically became part of the county’s 2012-13 tax digest. The homeowners did, at least, open the bill when it arrived, and found the $245,000 error that it represented.

They’re exceptionally lucky the county reversed that error; technically, by not challenging the assessment, they were liable for it – though undoubtedly the amount would have been too much to withstand a test of reasonableness.

Yet what about other people in the county who likewise never opened their assessment, and then were stuck paying more than they should have – or, for that matter, lucked into paying less? Even if it’s only a few dollars either way, why in the world would anyone so casually allow an incorrect tax notice to go unchallenged?

It’s probably for the same reason that people still text and drive, or drink to excess, or run with scissors.

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Comments (1)

Local Interests

County Should Also Perform Reasonableness Check

I agree that people should check their tax bills when they come in. However, the county should also carry a liability for doing a "reasonableness" check. In the age of computerization, this is a rather trivial task to generate a list that should be reviewed for reasons such as total $'s or $'s as compared to surrounding properties.

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