100 City Businesses Overbilled For Taxes

Baltimore Blames 'Human Error,' To Send Corrections

July 15, 2009|By a Baltimore Sun reporter

Owners of about 100 Baltimore-based businesses were sent personal property tax bills last month charging them more than they owe for the city's 2009-2010 fiscal year, and they are due to receive corrected bills this week.

Henry Raymond, chief of the Bureau of Revenue Collections in Baltimore's Finance Department, said the inaccurate bills were all in a batch issued June 24, the first day the city sent bills for personal property taxes for 2009-2010. The error in each case is that the amount owed was calculated based on a due date of Sept. 30, 2008, when it should have been calculated based on a due date of Sept. 30, 2009. As a result, recipients were charged penalties for failing to make full payment by the due date, even though the bills weren't mailed until June 2009.

Raymond said the inaccurate bills were the result of "human error," not a computer glitch, and affected "a very small percentage" of business owners because the mistake was caught on the first day the bills were issued. He said subsequent batches of bills were calculated based on the due date of Sept. 30, 2009.

FOR THE RECORD - A story on Page 14A of Wednesday's editions misstated information about Baltimore business owner Chris Bready's personal property tax bill. A bill issued on June 24, 2009, included a penalty of $34.90 if the full amount was paid by June 30, 2009.
The Sun regrets the error.

Personal property tax is levied on a company's inventory and equipment. Raymond said the city will send out 6,000 to 7,000 personal property tax bills between June and November.

The erroneous bills all have a due date of 09-30-08, Raymond said Tuesday. "It should have read 09-30-09. We believe it happened to less than 100 of the bills that went out. ... We are in the process of issuing revised bills" this week."

One business owner who received an erroneous bill was Chris Bready, owner of the Baltimore Book Company in the 2100 block of N. Charles St. Based on the amount of inventory and equipment Bready reported, his personal property tax bill was $193.91. But the city's bill included a penalty of $34.90 if he did not pay the full amount by June 30, 2009, when it should have given him a discount for paying three months before the Sept. 30, 2009, deadline.

Bready said he was about to mail a check to the city when he realized the numbers didn't add up. "I sat there and I took a look and I said, 'Wait a minute. I should be getting a discount, not a penalty' ... Somebody screwed up."

Bready said he was satisfied with the city's response when he called the billing section to inquire. "I only had to wait on the phone for nine minutes."

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