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King County Could Change Property Tax Refund Time Limits

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King County may soon double the amount of time homeowners can get a refund, if their property taxes are wrong.

Our trip to property tax fairness, began at Roberta Cannon’s home and horse haven in Everett.  It’s where Cannon learned the square footage of her home was filed improperly.  As a result, she had overpaid her property taxes for 40 years, but Snohomish County law only provides a refund for three.

“Well they can’t go back more than 3 years. And the more I thought about it I got upset because that’s a lot of years to be overpaying property taxes,” said Cannon.

Snohomish County Assessor Linda Hjelle said it’s nearly impossible to provide a decades-long refund.

“It would-be difficult to recreate the tax as they were back 40 years or 30 years or 20 years from now to make sure they are refunding the correct amounts,” said Hjelle.

Pierce County also limits refunds and collections to three years for errors.

Last year, Kitsap County passed a resolution allowing 6 years.

King County is three years, but a new ordinance from King County Councilmember Jeanne Kohl-Welles would make it 6 years.

“I thought it was only fair to do that. Why should somebody be paying more then he or she should have to pay, because of an error by the county,” said Kohl-Welles.

The kinds of errors, are just like the one Roberta had. They are technically called manifest errors.

“Manifest errors are easy to prove. It could be that your property has be evaluated or the taxes have been assessed on numbers of bedrooms being incorrect.  5 bedrooms, but you only have 4,” said Kohl-Welles.  “Or the square footage is off, and so the calculation is made to your detriment. But it can be easily proven and easily fixed.”

Wednesday the ordinance passed through the King County Budget and Fiscal Management Committee, unanimously. The legislation was also expedited and will be voted on by the entire council by as early as Monday.

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