D.C. Mayor cancels tax sales, creates office of real estate tax ombudsmen; council passes emergency measures.

by Chris on September 25, 2013

In the city of Magnificent Intentions, the mayor and councilpersons rally around measures to stop tax-lien abuse. Mayor Vincent Gray and his Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi took executive action cancelling over a hundred tax sales recently. Additional action includes the creation of the position real property tax ombudsmen which is intended to aid in taxpayer grievances. The announcements from Washington D.C.’s chief executive come after a ten month investigation by the Washington Post which appears to unveil inequities in the taxing procedures. As a result the mayor canceled all tax sales where the homeowners lost their primary residences for unpaid amounts under $2,500. While members of the D.C. Council have passed emergency legislation investigating the issues, some questions remain.Such as, how does the department of finance reconcile reducing $2.6 billion in taxes it collects from 500 commercial properties, while homeowners with little or no bargaining position are left navigating the administrative pitfalls at their own risk?

Although far away from home, we can hardly say that we are locally immune from the issues faced in D.C. The homestead exemption in Louisiana alleviates part of the issue D.C. experiences of vulnerable home owners losing their primary residences. However, it does raise several issues such as whether local political subdivisions should have their own homestead exemption or grandfather policies. At this time each city, town, and village in Louisiana employs its own unique procedures for collecting property taxes. But the question of localization raises the broader issue of misapplication of tax rates. Should cities or town have the authority to pick and choose who gets taxed less? The same problem exists on a state-wide level.

 

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