Weybridge needs to collect more taxes

WEYBRIDGE — Weybridge residents thought they’d dispensed with their 2020 tax bills last October.
But the taxman cometh again, this time requesting retroactive payment of taxes that were understated last fall due to what local officials are calling “incorrect education tax rates incorporated in the 2020 tax bill.”
“In August 2020, the Department of Taxes changed the procedure for publishing tax rates for individual towns,” reads a notice sent to Weybridge taxpayers recently. “The town made an error in translating the information.
The result of the error is that the property tax rate for Weybridge homes was lower than it should have been by 19.99 cents per $100 of assessed property value, and for commercial property it was 6.41 cents per $100 of assessed value lower.
For Weybridge residents who pay their property taxes based on real estate value (as opposed to income, or a combination of income and real estate) will have to pay around $400 more per $200,000 in assessed homestead value, in order to close the books on their 2020 tax bill.
No penalties or interest will accrue on the adjusted tax bill amount until after the due date of May 17, “to recognize that a significant correction of taxes may place some hardship on property owners,” according to the notice sent to taxpayers.
Weybridge Town Clerk Brenda Jaring said the revised tax bills went out last month to owners if the 392 taxed parcels in town. She’s received a handful of questions from local residents — including from folks wanting to make sure they aren’t being asked to re-pay their bill in full.
Residents have been very understanding of the error, and Jaring said she’s received a steady flow of tax payments since the new bills were mailed out.
The Weybridge selectboard has uploaded a document onto the town website showing how the error occurred and actions taken to redress it. According to that document:
•  Aug. 15, 2020. Confusion arising out of an email from the state containing tax rates results in incorrect education tax rates incorporated in the 2020 tax bill, and incorrect total tax due for all taxpayers as a result.
•  September 2020: The selectboard set the tax rates and incorrect bills sent were out with a due date of Oct. 15, 2020.
•  March 9, 2021. Ellen Dooley at the Vermont Department of Taxes informs the town clerk that the rates were incorrect.
•  March 10. Weybridge selectboard Chair Dan James contacts the Vermont Department of Taxes.
•  March 11. Selectboard contacts town attorney Adam Powers for advice on how to resolve the issue. Powers advises that corrected tax bills should be sent out as soon as possible, with penalties and interest waived beyond the usual 30-day requirement.
•  March 14, 2021. The Department of Taxes agrees with Powers’s proposed solution.
•  March 22, 2021. Town officials vote to amend the tax rate, issue corrected tax bills and waive interest and penalties until May 17.
“Thank you for your understanding and we are very sorry for any inconvenience this has placed on the property owners in Weybridge,” the notice concludes.
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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