Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Reform OTR Now

The Office of Tax and Revenue's Class 3 Office is obliged by law to collect the higher class 3 property tax (5%) for previous years properties have been vacant and to pursue cases of fraud. I believe the OTR hase been negligent of its duties.

Several weeks ago, I once again begged Steve Capello, supervisory assessor and manager of the Class 3 program, to investigate several vacant properties near my home. I am still waiting for a reply. 1000 M St NW has been vacant for over 20 years yet has never paid class 3 tax and in fact was receiving the senior citizen homestead deduction. 1002 M St NW was paying class 3 tax until their assessment went up last year and they somehow got an exemption. The house is going to enforcement by the Board of Condemnation and is on the tax sale list, yet it is still listed as class 1 (occupied). The developer that bought 1006 M ST NW waited at least a year before even applying for permits and did not pay the class 3 tax during that time.

OTR also does not investigate clear cases of fraud such as trumped-up Pepco bills used to claim occupancy. At 1000 M Street, the owner plugged in a lamp to generate a bill he could take to OTR and claim occupancy. The house has been vacant for over 20 years and, at the time, the rear of the house had no roof. When I brought this to OTR's attention, they promised to send a vacant property registration packet. Bob Worthington in the OTR Class 3 Office even protested, saying that the size of the bill indicates that someone must be living there.

Recently, Worthington informed me that he was unaware of there being any problem with fraud with the registration of vacant properties and that they rarely involve the OTR's investigative unit. Tonight, in an extensive investigative report, Fox 5 news found otherwise.

The city council should exercise oversight over the Office of Tax and Revenue to make sure that tax cheats are prosecuted.


Anonymous said...

I spoke with him to day about a vacant neighborhood property and it sounds like they have to work off of DCRA's list which gets sent every year.

Does the OTR office have a fraud department with enough people to investigate a claim?

si said...

DCRA promised that OTR's changes would be reflected in the 2nd half tax bills. everything they inspected (and reported on an ongoing basis, not 1x/yr) would be updated in OTR's database by then. I think they have failed.

ed said...

See the Examiner article about tax fraud.