The tax agency in Travis County, Texas, has kept millions of dollars that taxpayers overpaid and should have returned, according to a published report.
Over the past three years, a variety of people and agencies from homeowners to developers have overpaid about $21 million in property taxes. The county tax office is supposed to make sure that property owners get the money back, but Travis County officials have not been diligent in making sure that happens, according to the report.
Each county must follow certain procedures to try to return the money, but some say the county has made less effort than it should have. As of the end of March, the county had about $6 million in property tax money that needed to be refunded. If the money doesn’t get into the right hands after three years, the funds will go to the county general fund.
County officials, however, said the office makes every attempt to return the money. Officials said they mail letters to property owners alerting them of the error.
The officials, as well, said the burden can’t fall only on the government to return the money. It is incumbent upon property owners, they said, to pay the first amount and then to respond to letters from the county tax offices.
According to Texas law, if a tax office receives two payments for one property in the same amount, the tax agency should return one check. If property owners make one payment that exceeds their tax bill, they must seek a refund in writing. In Travis County, however, taxpayers must put both requests in writing.
Of the overpayments that Travis County has taken in since 2009, about $5.6 million in duplicate payments and $328,000 in single payments is due to property owners. People’s taxes are high enough as it is, they shouldn’t have to worry about a government’s incompetence keeping money that never should have been paid.
Source: Austin American Statesman, “Travis County tends to pocket overpaid taxes,” Tony Plohetski, May 5, 2012