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Widow overcharged on property taxes for nearly 25 years, no restitution

Homeowner recognizes mistake to no avail

In Racine, Wisconsin, an elderly widow discovered she has been overpaying her property tax bill for 24 years due to an error in the original property assessment. The original assessor inspected the property from the exterior in 1987 and assumed the pair of windows in the tiny one-story home was another bedroom with 500 square feet, but it is and always has been attic space.

With the extra 500 feet she has been billed for these last 24 years, the city theoretically owes her. In 2008 when her husband passed away, the homeowner visited the city looking for any way to bring down her tax bill given her new circumstances.

One of the city clerks noticed the extra bedroom and asked her if the assessment was correct, to which she of course said it was not.

The homeowner told Fox6 News, “We paid for 500 square feet of living space that we never had.”

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An offer to repay

In response, the city has offered to repay the most recent year of her being overcharged, totaling $450 but says they will not reimburse any past overcharges or waive future charges to balance the books but state that discovery of errors is the sole responsibility of a homeowner and that disputes are handled on an annual basis only.

The 84 year old woman protests, “if I owed them, they’d want their money.”

She claims her husband managed the finances for their home and was not aware of the city’s mistake, but it is arguable that because this issue has been known by the city since at least 2008, they should reimburse or waive future taxes for at least that long if not for the duration of her owning the note.

Do you think the city should reimburse or do you believe a simple record correction is sufficient? Tell us in the comments below what you think.

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Tara Steele is the News Director at The American Genius, covering entrepreneur, real estate, technology news and everything in between. If you'd like to reach Tara with a question, comment, press release or hot news tip, simply click the link below.

21 Comments

21 Comments

  1. Greg Eckler

    July 20, 2011 at 9:37 am

    I think this is a two part article. 1) Who is responsible for the past and 2) what happens in the future.

    For #1 – we all have to be accountable to our actions or in-actions. In Denver if there was a mistake, we let the city know and going forward we pay the "correct" taxes. I own my house and own the responsibility around it. In this case, this woman and her husband were accountable to determine if there was a problem and resolve it. They have had 24 years to look at the tax bill and change it.

    For #2 – I'm surprised the city wouldn't fix the mistake and adjust the tax bill going forward. Maybe I misunderstood the article but it sounds like the city doesn't care about the mistake and will continue to charge the full amount.

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