Tax administrator: Land hadn’t been on the county’s tax books for about 20 years
Alamance County’s commissioners have agreed to forgive the back taxes on an obscure piece of property that was only recently added to the county’s tax rolls due to the indefatigable efforts of the son of its elderly owner.
During their latest regularly-scheduled meeting on Tuesday, the commissioners voted to waive nearly $1,200 in property taxes that the county’s tax office had retroactively assessed to this 2.94-acre parcel that’s located along Neighbors Road in the northeastern reaches of Alamance County.
The property of 87-year-old Logan E. Miles, this vacant parcel had been left off the county’s tax rolls until its owner’s son Logan D. Miles “discovered” the lot when he conducted an inventory of his father’s real estate assets.
The younger Miles was on hand Tuesday to describe the convoluted ordeal that awaited him once he became aware that this property had been erroneously cataloged by the tax office, resulting in its omission from the agency’s computerized records.
“My understanding is that this happened around 2000 and it is now 2020, and this land has been sitting there with the wrong tax number,” Logan D. Miles explained to the commissioners that morning. “When I discovered that, I told my dad ‘We have a problem.’ . . . and my dad had no idea that this property was there.”
Miles acknowledged that he initially got the brush-off from a staff member when he tried to bring this omission to the attention of the county’s tax department. He added, however, that he later had better luck with other employees in the department who eventually rectified the mistake and added the lot to the county’s computerized records.
In return for his diligence, Miles said that he was presented with a bill for $1,185.17, which represented five years of assessments – or the maximum length of time that the tax office is legally able to charge for property that it discovers after the fact.
“I discovered this and I’m glad I discovered it,” he added. “But, right now, we are asking that you all suspend that payment. The reason being is that [Logan E. Miles] had no idea that it was out there. He didn’t make this mistake and he thinks its’ wrong for him to have to pay for somebody else’s mistake.”
Miles’ account was ultimately confirmed by Alamance County’s tax administrator Jeremy Akins, who added that the property in question had been left off the tax rolls when it was mistakenly lumped in with a neighboring lot on the county’s tax maps. Akins speculated that this error probably occurred when the tax maps were digitized in 2000 or thereabout.
“So, for about 20 years, the map says everything’s there; it just has this property in the neighbor’s name,” he recalled. “But in the billing record and the assessment record, it doesn’t exist. So, there’s no bill [being generated] at all.”
Akins went on to encourage the commissioners to accept Miles’ request to waive the back taxes for this property.
“This board has the power to wave any or all of the bill, and it’s completely legal for the board to do,” he said. “I put myself in their situation: you realize there’s been a mistake made on the part of the tax department, and you get shut down, and you continue to do it, and when it’s fixed, it’s like ‘oh, thanks; here’s a bill.’”
The commissioners went on to vote 4-to-0 in favor of Miles’ request, and effectively wiped the slate clean for his father, who had previously been up-to-date on his tax payments. Yet, the one thing the commissioners couldn’t do was to restore Miles’ faith in the tax system, which he admitted was shaken by the entire experience.
“It just knocked me on my feet that the system can be that bad,” he told the commissioners before Tuesday’s vote.