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Property Taxes (civic pneumonia)

Property Taxes (civic pneumonia)

• By Ashe Lockhart
• March 13, 2007

A while back, I received a tax notice from the Catawba County Tax Collector for a boat I kept on Lake Norman in Catawba Country. A few weeks later, I received a tax notice from the Mecklenburg County Tax Collector for the same boat, which, as I said, was kept on Lake Norman in Catawba County. As it turns out, Mecklenburg Country uses database software to identify taxable property owned by Mecklenburg County residents but kept outside Mecklenburg Country. Now, I do not have to pay the Mecklenburg County tax if I can show that I paid taxes on the property in the country in which the property is kept. Sounds fair, right? I’m not so sure. As far as Mecklenburg County is concerned, the presumption is that the tax payer did not pay property taxes in another county, and the burden is on the tax payer to rebut the presumption with proof of payment elsewhere. Since the instructions that come with the tax notice are written in typical confusing “government-speak” and do not clearly explain how a taxpayer is supposed to contest the County’s assertion that the property is subject to Mecklenburg Country taxes, I suspect many bewildered or worn out taxpayers end up paying taxes in two jurisdictions. This tax policy feels a little like a brazen attempt by Mecklenburg County to get a bite at tax revenue that it is not entitled to. Maybe it’s not so fair after all.

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