INCLINE VILLAGE, Nev. — As I look at the calendar, the fourth and final installment of our annual property taxes will be due for Incline Village and Crystal Bay property owners in about 2 weeks. The March 5, 2012, due date raises the question, “if the County owes me a refund that likely exceeds the property taxes currently due, why should I be sending a check to the Washoe County Treasurer?”
Asa businessman, I will sometimes prepay expenses for a variety of different reasons. But whenever I have money on account with a vendor or service provider, I expect that a credit will show up on the next invoice they send to me. Unfortunately, if you live in Incline Village or Crystal Bay, the Washoe County property tax system does not work that way. Even though the vast majority of local property owners are likely entitled to receive a refund in excess of the fourth installment amount due on March 5, the County is not doing what any other business would do and simply provide you with a credit.
Because the Treasurer’s office has been working at the pace of a turtle with emphysema, only about 9% of property owners have received the tax refunds that are many years overdue. All sorts of excuses have been offered up by the Treasurer's office for the slow pace of refunds. But, the fact of the matter is that the County is not making a reasonable effort to hire and train sufficient staff and follow the court orders to return to the taxpayers the tens of millions of dollars that were illegally overcharged during the past several years.
Since I do not wish to be indicted for conspiracy to commit tax evasion, the following comments pertain to my personal situation and are not to be construed otherwise. Each property owner in Incline Village and Crystal Bay will have to decide how they wish to handle dealing with the fourth property tax installment for the 2011 tax year if they have not yet received their refund prior to March 5.
Mynext installment payment is approximately $1,245. If I withhold payment until the 2012 tax bill that comes due in August I will incur approximately $140 in penalties and interest. I’m willing to take that risk of added expense just put a small dent in the Washoe County cash flow for the next five months. However, the vast majority of the 8700+ property owners in our community pay significantly higher property taxes than me. Imagine how it would impact the cash flow for the County if a large number of property owners decided to use the same tactic. And I’m not worried about my house getting sold at a tax auction since that takes ages and I can always pay the bill if push comes to shove.
There is simply no legitimate reason for the Washoe County Treasurer to require additional cash payments from people who already have a credit on account that exceeds the current property taxes payable. However, in the convoluted world in which our County executives operate this is the reality that has been foisted upon the property owners only in the communities of Incline Village and Crystal Bay and nowhere else in the County. The Treasurer is trying to make the claim that if their office has not calculated your refund they don't know how much of a credit you have. This is a remarkably effective stalling tactic if as property owners and taxpayers we continue to buy into their procrastination based operational model.
I have had conversations with the staff in the Treasurer’s office and there is absolutely no certainty as to when I might possibly receive the refund of property taxes that were overcharged and collected illegally on my house here in Incline Village. Since I am 100% certain that the refund owed to me exceeds the fourth installment due on March 5, I am simply not sending a payment, just the usual protest letter. Will others contemplate employing the same tactic on this particular issue in the hopes it will spur the County into speeding up the refund process or will I be a lone voice in the tax protest wilderness?
— Don Kanare is a Realtor at RE/MAX Premier Properties. Read his blog and weekly stats on his website at www.InsideIncline.com.