Local News Spotlight

Taxpayers find errors in Jackson County personal property bills

Officials will send letters about personal property statement mistakes.

Updated: 2012-12-23T06:13:29Z

By LYNN HORSLEY

The Kansas City Star

One car, but twice the tax bill.

It wasn’t obvious to Alyssa Thomas when she first looked online at her personal property tax bill from Jackson County. She was focused on the bottom line.

Then her husband did a double check. On one line, he noticed, the bill listed Thomas as the owner of the car. On the next, it absurdly listed the car’s vehicle identification number, or VIN, as the owner.

“I didn’t pay too close attention to the bill,” she said in an email to The Star, “just the amount to be paid.”

It turns out she’s not alone. Jackson County officials acknowledge some county personal property tax bills are wrong. And they’re urging taxpayers to scrutinize the charges.

The county discovered several weeks ago that in an unknown number of its 295,000 personal property accounts, people were being charged twice for vehicles, boats or other personal property. The county collector’s office does not yet know how many accounts were affected or what’s causing the mistakes.

“We’ve been conducting an internal audit trying to identify where the glitch occurred and obviously what can be done to fix it,” said Dan Ferguson, spokesman for Jackson County.

While the county is still investigating the scope of the problem, Ferguson said officials believe a “small number” of accounts were affected.

Thomas called the county about the goof on her bill. She said she was told to go to the courthouse in person to dispute the charge.

She had to take time off from her job in Lenexa to go downtown. The courthouse staff was helpful and quickly adjusted her bill, she said, but also told her that she was “probably the 100th person that had come in with duplicate entries on their taxes.”

“They said there was something with the computing system that was creating a high number of duplicates,” Thomas said.

Ferguson said Thomas should not have been told that she needed to dispute the charge in person.

“If she was told that, I don’t know why,” he said. “That was incorrect.”

He said the county has a collections phone bank, and people can request a corrected bill by calling 816-881-3232.

Thomas also wondered why the county hadn’t notified people earlier. Payments are due Dec. 31.

Ferguson said the county has been trying to get a handle on just how many accounts were involved before sending out notifications.

“We’re in the process of sending a letter out, over the next week, to all those accounts that could potentially be affected,” he said.

Ferguson said the county will refund overpayments as soon as possible. He said the county is attempting to rectify the situation “not only this year, but for the long term.” He said he could not recall any other such billing glitch in recent years at the county.

To reach Lynn Horsley, call 816-226-2058 or send email to lhorsley@kcstar.com.

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