Many Baltimore City property owners may have a hard time comprehending the size of their tax bills, but the bills themselves should make more sense when the new batch goes out in the mail in a couple of months. City tax bills are getting something of a makeover.
“We are in the process of redesigning some elements of the tax bill to the extent that our current systems allow,” mayoral spokesman Ryan O’Doherty said this week in an email.
O’Doherty said details won’t be available for another couple weeks, but added: “We are generally pleased with the efforts the city plans to implement this year to make bills more transparent.”
Vague wording has confused some taxpayers, particularly when it comes to property tax credits. The Homestead Property Tax Credit, which effectively caps annual tax increases for owner-occupied homes, appears on bills not as a homestead credit but an “assessment credit.”
A variety of other breaks – including the historic rehab credit and the new construction credit – aren’t listed individually but instead show up under the catch-all “special credit" category.
When The Baltimore Sun discovered hundreds of city homeowners were improperly getting the homestead break on multiple homes, some owners said they didn’t realize the assessment and homestead credits were one and the same.
More recently, a Patterson Park homeowner who was given an erroneous historic credit because of a mistake by the state assessment agency said she had no idea she was getting a historic credit each of the past two years.
O’Doherty has said that itemizing breaks that fall under the “special credit” label would require “extensive re-programming” by the city. “The system is very old and the City is investing in new software in the future that will help us provide additional transparency on tax bills,” he said.
None of this matters, of course, unless people actually read their tax bills — something that can easily be overlooked when a mortgage company pays property taxes out of escrow.