No, the city did not eliminate the senior tax exemption.
But that’s what some taxpayers are questioning following the receipt of real estate tax bills earlier this week. The bills don’t include the exemption, although it is still in effect and will be applied.
What’s making it all the more confusing, some taxpayers who are 65 years old and older who qualify for $12,000 in exemptions have received the $103.80 credit per quarter on their tax statements while others haven’t.
“We have never experienced something like this in the past,” City Tax Assessor and Collector Ken Mallette said Tuesday in a telephone interview. He explained that in some situations where married couples are eligible for the exemption, and both individuals are 65 or older, the computer program applied the exemption to the automobile tax bill. Should the name of the motor vehicle registrant also be the first name on the owner of the real estate, the spousal exemption wasn’t applied.
In response to calls, as well as to those who have appeared in person to pay their bills, the office has applied abatements to the bill to account for the entitled exemption. Callers are being told to make the first quarterly payment, which is due July 15, as billed and that they will receive a new bill.
This doesn’t leave everyone happy.
One of several callers to the Beacon said she thought it unfair she had to pay more ($103.80) this month, although with the September payment, she would receive double the exemption.
Mallette could not say how many seniors have not received their real estate exemptions, but he estimated it at a couple of hundred. He said 12,000 Warwick taxpayers are entitled to elderly exemptions.
Mallette explained that married senior couples are entitled to two exemptions, but not in equal amounts. The first $6,000 exemption is generally applied to a motor vehicle, with the second $12,000 exemption going to real estate. Both exemptions are calculated at the motor vehicle rate of $34.60, which is the highest of the city’s tiered tax system.
“We’re fixing them as we come across them,” said Mallette.
Triggering the problem is the conversion to a new billing program and collection system.
Unlike the past, this year’s invoices also include envelopes for each of the quarterly payments addressed to the city at a Boston Post Office box. This is the first year the city has gone to a “lock box” system for payments. The city contracted with Citizens Bank to perform the service that deposits payments as soon as they are received.
When making payments, taxpayers are advised to write their control number on their check. Individual accounts will be credited by the city from a manifest provided by the bank, but unlike last year when the city fell behind on processing, checks won’t sit for weeks before being cashed. This will improve city cash flow and eliminate calls from taxpayers asking if their payment has been received.
Apart from the wrinkle over exemptions, the new system appears to be working.
Not all tax bills went out simultaneously.
Mallette said motor vehicle bills would go out this week. Nonetheless, the first quarterly payment is still due July 15.
And yet another snafu concerning tax bill has been raised. The bill reads full payments are due Sept. 15, 2014. It should read Sept. 15, 2013.
“Residents are advised that, due to an error by the vendor awarded the bid to print tax bills, the date by which full tax payments should be made is incorrect,” reads a release issued by the city.