Property Tax Bill Mistake - WSVN-TV - 7NEWS Miami Ft. Lauderdale News, Weather, Deco

Property Tax Bill Mistake

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Sorting through your property tax bill and understanding it can be difficult for most of us, and if there is a mistake, it can be costly. One South Florida family had a terrible mistake and it was the counties fault, so who has to pay the price? It's why they called Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.

WSVN -- By now if you own a house or condo, you have opened your property tax bill. Everyone grimaces, John Cadwallader started groaning.

John 'JC' Cadwallader: "We don't have that laying around. I think anybody would say that."

When John, nicknamed JC opened his tax bill, he saw it went from from $908 to $15,621. A mistake by the county right? Yes, but...

John 'JC' Cadwallader: "And they call it a key stroke error."

An old keystroke error you see back in 2009. JC and his wife Diane moved from this home in Biscayne Park to their new dream home in Southwest Ranches.

John 'JC' Cadwallader: "The girls saw this and were like wow this is it."

And by using the portability law, the Cadwalladers could lower the taxable value of their new home.

Howard Finkelstein: "Portability is a process that allows a homeowner to sell their Homesteaded property, purchase another one and lower the taxable assessment on the new home by using the property tax savings from the old home."

But in 2009, a property appraiser employee gave the Cadwalladers the wrong portability.

The county sent this letter saying they were getting a $158,000 portability. So the Cadwalladers weren't suspicious when their 2009 and 2010 property taxes were just over a $1,000.

$31 in 2011 and their tax bill in 2012 $908 dollars. JC assumed it was correct because it came from the county.

John 'JC' Cadwallader: "Not really understanding how portability works not being told the portability or the portability mileage rate was we thought everything was hokey dory."

The property appraiser's office says their property taxes each year should have been about 5,000 a year and now the Cadwalladers had to pay the back taxes.

Howard Finkelstein: "If the county makes a mistake and you benefit, the county can only go back three years. That means JC does not have to pay his property taxes for the fourth year which is 2009. But he does have to pay the other three years."

That means JC now owes the county $15,621 in back taxes but the bill came with this note. If he didn't pay it by Nov. 8., in three weeks nearly $2,000 in interest and penalties would kick in, bringing the old tax bill to $17,495. Not fair, JC says since the county made the mistake in the first place.

John 'JC' Cadwallader: "Waive the penalty, give us time to secure a loan, depending on the what the true back tax is, and come up with a correct number."

Howard says when it comes to interest and penalties, the tax collector has made a mistake.

Howard Finkelstein: "The same state law that allows the county to collect back taxes for three years also says the county cannot charge interest and penalties from the back taxes until the the current taxes are due. That means no interest and penalties until April."

We spoke to the tax collectors office. I was told this is the way they collect back taxes and have never had a complaint about interest and penalties. They would not admit they were making a mistake but said JC needs to send them a letter, explaining what he believes is their mistake. They will research the law Howard is basing his conclusion on. JC will do that and he has a suggestion for anyone, before they pay their property taxes.

John 'JC' Cadwallader: "Look twice, Look twice. Make sure it's right. Make sure everything you are entitled to is there. I would go over it with a fine tooth come check for errors and miss trust."

Patrick Fraser: "I also spoke to Lori Parrish, the Broward property appraiser. Her office sent JC a note apologizing for the portability mistake back in 2009.

On the bright side, he doesn't have to pay the back taxes for 2009. The downside, he has to come up with $15,000 to pay the back taxes for 2010-11 and 2012.

And if you are planning on moving and confused by portability like most of us, we have an explanation.

Troubles taxing your temperment ready to pay them back? Contact us. We have portability, we are portable and we have a little ability.

Below are links for both Dade & Broward. Portability works statewide and the information is probably on most property appraiser websites.

http://www.miamidade.gov/pa/exemptions_portability.asp

http://bcpa.net/homestead.asp

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