After an undetermined number of Greenwood County residents did not receive tax notices for their 2013 property taxes, Greenwood County officials have elected to waive all delinquent tax fees on 2013 taxes.
“It was a difficult decision,” said Greenwood County treasurer Sharon Setzer. “I have a fiduciary and statutory obligation to this county to abide by the law, but I also have a duty to provide the best, fairest service for our citizens that I can. I felt (waiving the delinquent tax penalties) was the most fair, most equitable way to handle this situation.”
Acting county attorney Stephen Baggett said that anyone who has already paid their taxes and was assessed a penalty will receive a refund of the penalty in the mail. There will be a 30-day window ending May 30 in which residents can pay late taxes and have the penalties waived.
Baggett noted that the 30-day window was not an extension of the deadline for taxes to be paid, but that payment of taxes by May 30 was a condition for having delinquent tax penalties waived. IF a resident fails to pay their taxes before May 30, the resident will have all penalties for the delinquent tax levied and collected.
The tax notice issue began last year when county officials began hearing from taxpayers that they had not received a tax notice for their 2013 taxes. The areas which appear to have been affected are Hodges, Ninety Six, Troy, Bradley and Ware Shoals. In response, county officials posted information about tax notices on the county website, met with the local media and conducted reverse E911 calls to inform residents of the issue.
Baggett said that, by state, law the county is not required to send out tax notices. The county has, however, historically sent out those notices. For about the past 15 years, the county has contracted with PressTech Digital out of Augusta to print and send the tax notices. The county prepares digital files and transmits those files to the contractor to print and mail. The cost of the service is about $20,000, Setzer said. The county will be purchasing a machine which will allow the county to handle printing and mailing tax notices beginning this year.
Since the county generated the electronic files from which the contractor printed the tax notices, Baggett said he is certain that no error was made by county staff which resulted in some residents not receiving the notices. According to Baggett, state law provides for three scenarios in which the treasurer can waive tax penalties: an error by the county, an error by the postal service or an error by a third party contracted by the county.
Baggett said he could not speculate on where the error occurred, but said he was certain, based on the electronic files sent to the contractor, that the error did not lie with the county. Baggett also said the error was a highly isolated incident.
“It is the result of a set of an extremely unusual set of circumstances which applies only to 2013 tax notices,” Baggett said. “This set of circumstances will not exist again. It is important for taxpayers to understand that there will be no broad waiver of penalties next year.”