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Baltimore Works to Correct Property Tax Errors

by Tom Branham, Washington D.C., December 2013

 

Property tax errors are a long-standing problem in Baltimore, Maryland, according to investigations by the local newspaper. The Baltimore Sun reports errors the past few years have cost the city more than $2 million in lost taxes.

 

Calls for an Audit

 

The stories about property tax errors recently spurred calls for an immediate audit of the city's Finance Department. Councilman Carl Stokes, who chairs the taxation committee, sponsored the audit resolution and a majority of the council supported the idea.

 

Stokes is also pushing a separate proposal to privatize tax calculations and collections to end what he calls "the chronic and costly tax errors plaguing Baltimore.”

 

Wait and See

 

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake believes an immediate audit is not necessary. She formed a Billing Integrity Unit that has been able to remedy errors involving several types of property tax breaks:

 

  • Commercial Enterprise Zone credits

  • Brownfields credits for sites with past environmental contamination

  • Historic tax credits for renovating old buildings

  • Properties with tax exempt status

  • Homestead credits

 

The Mayor is urging officials to wait until next summer to order an audit because by then, a new automated system will be in place. "We're not against audits," she said. "We just want to make sure they're done is a timely way and are not wasteful of the taxpayers' money."