County’s review of questionable tax breaks slowed by appraisal appeals

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County’s review of questionable tax breaks slowed by appraisal appeals

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Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith holds a foam desktop toy with the phone number citizens can call to learn more about the homestead exemption program. CORNELIUS FROLIK / STAFF

A Montgomery County Auditor’s Office review of property owners possibly getting hundreds or thousands of dollars in tax breaks they may not be eligible for — an issue uncovered in an I-Team investigation — isn’t done because the office has to finish dealing with the recent county-wide property value appraisal first, officials say.

The I-Team in June identified thousands of rental and business properties getting a tax break meant for people who own and occupy their homes. The breaks also went to people claiming more than one primary residence.

Auditor Karl Keith pledged a “comprehensive review” of the owner-occupancy tax credit program because of the findings. He estimated they would have more information in about a month.

Chief Deputy Auditor Kate Evans said this week that review was slowed by the mandated re-appraisal of property values countywide that the office finished in July. This has forced the office’s real estate staff of less than a dozen to focus on 2,300 meetings with property owners asking about or contesting their values, she said.

But the office is committed to a thorough review of the issue, she said.

“We’re definitely examining this issue and we want to make sure we get this as right as we can so it doesn’t happen moving forward and we can correct what has been done erroneously,” she said.

She said the office has several months to figure out what the assessments should be before the next tax bills go out in January. They have not decided whether to do anything about 2016 taxes that were already collected, some possibly with breaks they didn’t deserve.

“Right now we’re looking at needing just a little bit more time to finish that and we will be able to lay out everything we have found and have done moving forward to prevent this sort of thing from happening again,” Evans said.

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