Friday, May 11, 2012

Sweep Of Improper Homestead Claims Asserting Real Estate Tax Benefit Entitlements Continues In Indiana

In Porter County, Indiana, the Post Tribune reports:

  • Owners of multi-family dwellings such as apartments who live in those buildings face a bad news/good news scenario in Porter County.

  • The bad news is, hundreds of them have been receiving homestead property tax exemptions for entire buildings, not just the units they live in, resulting in thousands of dollars owed to the county. The good news is, they can go to Porter County Auditor Bob Wichlinski’s office and get their exemptions straightened out without having to pay back taxes or penalties. If they put off that task until next year, though, they will have to pay those back taxes and penalties.

  • Letters went out to property owners saying they were in violation of the homestead exemption late last week, Wichlinski said Thursday. Given the scope of the problem, and the fact that there is no way to know whether property owners were purposefully dishonest when filing the necessary documents at closing when they took ownership of their buildings, his office decided to give property owners amnesty — for now.

  • We’re going to notify everybody who’s in this condition, we’re not going to seek back pay but starting in ’12 — pay in ’13 — we’re going to get it right,” Wichlinski said, adding the number of property owners is “in the hundreds — that we know of.”

  • That certainly provides property owners a break; Wichlinski said one owner who came in owed around $12,000 in back taxes and penalties. The county has been working to verify homestead exemptions, and the multi-unit buildings are just the most recent phase of that sweep, Wichlinski said.

  • Through early April, the auditor’s office has collected more than $1.4 million from single-family home owners who were committing homestead exemption fraud, he said.

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