I got my tax bill just before Christmas.
Even the IRS knows how to avoid that.
A Little Background.
In 2006 we didn't get our tax bill or our homestead exemption for 2007. There was this thing going on back then, you might have heard about. In any event we eventually paid our 2006 taxes, changed our mailing address and filed our 2007 Homestead Exemption. It was never applied to our 2007 tax bill, we never even got a tax bill. Eventually we got around to trying to straighten it out.
I've written about our problems with the 2008 tax assessment and during that we decided to try tackle the 2007 bill. We refiled the Homestead Exemption, changed the mailing address again and filed an affidavit that we were planning on returning to our house. We were told it would be corrected on the next tax bill.
This Time Around.
When got our 2008 tax bill, it was still wrong. It hasn't been right since 2005. It still does not show our Homestead Exemption for either 2007 or 2008 and the 2007 tax has not been corrected.
So, back I go to City Hall. On the Fourth Floor. I waited in line for the obligatory hour to talk to one of the people in our Assessor, Erroll Williams' Office, while other citizens simply walked in and talked to their assessors staff, no waiting. The Assessor's staff lady said they had the Homestead Exemption, she even showed me a computer screen. Her story was that they had done their part, it was up to the City Finance Department to correct the tax bill.
Down to the City Finance Department, Tax Research Section. The lady there looked in the computer and told me they had no record of the Homestead Exemption and they they can't add a Homestead Exemption, the Assessor has to issue a "Change Order". She asked if the Assessor had given me anything. Being a dummy and dulled by standing around in a crowded hallway for an hour I didn't ask for a printout.
According to Finance, the screen I saw was an internal Assessor screen, which shows a Homestead Exemption, but doesn't reflect the information actually given the Finance Department. Both offices agreed it might take 4 -6 months to transmit than one piece of information down two floors of City Hall.
I asked if there was any way they could calculate the tax owed so I could make a partial payment and hopefully in the fullness of time the appropriate correction will be made and the balance zero out. Unfortunately the only lady in the Tax Research Section who can do that is on vacation until next Thursday.
The Assessor and the Finance Department also both maintain web sites where you are supposed to be able to look up you assessment and you tax bill. Unfortunately both sites are apparently disconnected from the actual information in the official records, since they don't agree and have different information. I'm not sure what the update process is but there seem to be four separate, unconnected and unsynchronized versions of My Property Tax. Seems to me in an efficient system the information would be automatically shared and updated. In an ideal system the information would be stored in exactly one place and every office would have access to it.
I briefly thought about paying the tax or at least my guess at the right amount but immediately thought better of it. One conclusion all of my fellow citizens waiting for the Assessor agreed on was that once the city gets your money, you'll never see it again.
Defeated by the system I decided to regroup.
The Next Time.
I will return after New Years from a little sun, I'll go back to City Hall again and try to get the Assessors office to give me some documentation. I'll go back to the Finance department and see if the magic calculation lady is there, so I can pay the right amount of tax.
Unfortunately I still have an appeal before the Louisiana Tax Commission to look forward to, which could change everything. There is now a toll free number for Orleans Parish Appeals, 1.866.663.4754. I am told a letter will be mailed to all parties before the end of the year and hearings will start on February 8, 2008.