Despite delay, taxpayers still must pay

Full story: The Advocate 229
JoAnn Karagianes of Norwalk couldn't believe it when she opened her mailbox this week and discovered she owed the city of Stamford $420.16 in unpaid car taxes. Full Story
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Joann T

Oakland, CA

#1 Apr 25, 2006
I just received a notice from a collection agency that I owe Stamford CT over $400.00 for car tax from 14 years ago. Now I have to prove whether it was paid or not.
T Glassman

The Dalles, OR

#2 Jan 22, 2007
I moved to Oregon almost 10 years ago and just got a bill for motor vehicle tax from the collection agency. I don't mind paying what I owe, but why do I have to pay almost 10 years' worth of interst in penalties when the city is so incompetent that they can't send mail out. We listed our new Oregon address with the post office and all our mail seemed to arrive fine. Doesn't the city of Stamford send out a second bill that could be forwarded by the post office? If I owe money, I should pay it and I'm happy to pay it. I'll even pay one year's interst in penalties for the inconvenience I caused the city by moving away. But why should I pay for almost 10 years' worth of incompetence?

Since: Dec 06

Norwalk, CT

#3 Jan 23, 2007
T Glassman wrote:
I moved to Oregon almost 10 years ago and just got a bill for motor vehicle tax from the collection agency. I don't mind paying what I owe, but why do I have to pay almost 10 years' worth of interst in penalties when the city is so incompetent that they can't send mail out. We listed our new Oregon address with the post office and all our mail seemed to arrive fine. Doesn't the city of Stamford send out a second bill that could be forwarded by the post office? If I owe money, I should pay it and I'm happy to pay it. I'll even pay one year's interst in penalties for the inconvenience I caused the city by moving away. But why should I pay for almost 10 years' worth of incompetence?
I have some empathy for Ms. Karagianes and for you. It seems like the city should make a good faith effort to contact you before turning the bill over to the collection agency. The interest penalty is steep for an extended period.

However, I must also agree with the quote from the Stamford Director of Administration. If someone moves, or they cannot be located, they are not absolved from payment of taxes, regardless of whether the bill shows up or not.

It's always convenient and popular to blame government when something goes wrong, but don't forget that this issue might have been avoided 10 years ago with a single phone call to the Stamford Tax Assessment and Collection office.

It's a shame the property tax system is set up the way it is in CT. The larger cities are so dependent on property tax revenue that they resort to measures like this to recoup revenue.
10 years in CA

San Diego, CA

#4 Jan 26, 2007
rtretter, YOU ARE WRONG that in this case it is convenient or popular to blame the government. It is just plain and simple that the Stamford Tax Assessment and Collection office was incompetent for all of those years. I just received this letter and I think that it's just outrageous that I could be liable for the excess interest and fees that have accumulated in over 10 years. I made a good effort to try to resolve the issue by just paying the principal but was told that I have no choice but to pay the entire balance. Because of that I'm going to find a way to not pay.

Since: Dec 06

Norwalk, CT

#5 Jan 27, 2007
10 years in CA wrote:
rtretter, YOU ARE WRONG that in this case it is convenient or popular to blame the government. It is just plain and simple that the Stamford Tax Assessment and Collection office was incompetent for all of those years. I just received this letter and I think that it's just outrageous that I could be liable for the excess interest and fees that have accumulated in over 10 years. I made a good effort to try to resolve the issue by just paying the principal but was told that I have no choice but to pay the entire balance. Because of that I'm going to find a way to not pay.
In case you missed it, I agreed that the penalty seemed onerous.

But, answer me this: Who was responsible for the initial property tax payment? Blame them all you want, but the responsible party wasn't the Stamford Tax Assessment office. Yell at the government, rant at me and call me WRONG - it doesn't change that fact.

There are far too many people in this state (or, in this case, leaving this state) that attempt to avoid this payment. Look at all the out-of-state tags parked at homes in Fairfield County for evidence.

I hope that you can resolve the situation in a fair manner. If you choose not to pay, and break the law, I hope that you accept the consequences.
10 years in CA

San Diego, CA

#6 Jan 31, 2007
According to the laws in CT I am responsible, but that doesn't mean the laws for this tax aren't terribly flawed. Just because the laws are behind Stamford doesn't make it right. It is not against the law to expel flatus in a crowded elevator, but that still doesn't make it right.

I agree that many people will quickly use the government as a scape goat to justify what they claim to be an injustice. When in reality things aren't going the way they would like.

In my case, I had only lived in CT for less than a year before moving out of state. I had never received one of these bills before and was never aware of it. I was not trying to avoid it and I would not have bothered trying to avoid it. I tried to be a good citizen and follow the rules. There was no indication at the CT DMV of any taxes that needed to be made. There was no letter from the city of Stamford upon registration of the car that there was a tax. The tax was pretty much hidden charge to me.

I think that the burden of the timely notification of the existence of the tax rests on the City of Stamford. I would pay the original amount. But it is unfair to charge all of the excess interest and fees especially since the Tax Assesment office was not competent enough to notify me within 10 years. It is beyond reason.

You mention out-of-state tags parked at homes in Fairfield County. Well I'm sure those people are more likely trying to avoid taxes and other costs related to living in CT. But, just because someone moves out of state does not mean they are trying to avoid a tax. Many times they are not even aware of it.

If I choose to forget to pay the bill for the next 5 years then by law I will not be liable for the tax. This is due to a 15 year statute of limitations. Also, I can demand that the credit bureau only contact me through writing and they must comply. I'm sure that they will send several "final notices". They are also very unlikely to follow up on any amounts below $1500. If that happens, then technically I have not broken any laws and the consequence is that I don't have to pay excessive late fees.
anna

Jersey City, NJ

#7 Feb 2, 2007
I received MOTOR VEHICLE TAX Bill from city of Stamford CT from Oct1 2002 to Sep 30 2003. I moved to New Jersey on March 2003 and I transferred my car registration, driver license, car insurance to New Jersey in March 2003.

I did not receive this tax bill although I made mail transfer at the time I moved. I was surprised with all the interest and collection fee charge. To make an effort,
I called city of Stamford regarding this issue and ask them to charge me with the correct period from Oct 2002 to March 2003. But they told me this bill is too old they can not do anything about it. What kind of system they have? Or this is another excuse to avoid doing their job?

In fact Stamford CT asked correction office to send out 6000 letters for the similar problem I had. Is this a coincident? I do not think so. I am paying someone’s mistake here!
katie

AOL

#8 Feb 4, 2007
I too never knew I had to pay auto property tax on my car and never received notices for the last 10+ years. I have been advised to NOT contact the Collection Agency. I had one brief conversation and they sent me partial documention of the "debts'. I have still not seen the actual notices of tax due and how the tax is calculated. Remember the CA is not out to help you. They use low paid employees and the CA has either bought the debts from the city or gets paid a commission from the city on the amounts they collect. SO they will not get you out of it! If you do not answer their letters, return their calls and DON't GIVE out your phone number or employer information they will most likely go away, especially since these are old "debts".

Based on my research online, conversations with CT dept of policy and Attorney General office, keep in mind the following:

-the statute of limitation for these "debts' is 15 years. after that you are not obligated to pay

-The CA cannot sue you, & cannot garnish your wages

-The "debts" can only be reported within a seven year time period of when they were do. So if the city realized you "owed them" money, which I doubt they did, the debts would have already been on your credit report.

From what i have been reading, the city is having financial challenges and recently increased real estate property taxes. So it seems that they have found all these auto tax payments that they never contacted individuals about. Maybe they had a computer malfunction for 10 years???

I do not feel guilty about not paying since this is a Stamford scam ..way to cheat honest citizens who would have gladly paid the taxes dues when they were due

Since: Dec 06

Norwalk, CT

#9 Feb 4, 2007
katie wrote:
I too never knew I had to pay auto property tax on my car and never received notices for the last 10+ years. I have been advised to NOT contact the Collection Agency. I had one brief conversation and they sent me partial documention of the "debts'. I have still not seen the actual notices of tax due and how the tax is calculated. Remember the CA is not out to help you. They use low paid employees and the CA has either bought the debts from the city or gets paid a commission from the city on the amounts they collect. SO they will not get you out of it! If you do not answer their letters, return their calls and DON't GIVE out your phone number or employer information they will most likely go away, especially since these are old "debts".
Based on my research online, conversations with CT dept of policy and Attorney General office, keep in mind the following:
-the statute of limitation for these "debts' is 15 years. after that you are not obligated to pay
-The CA cannot sue you, & cannot garnish your wages
-The "debts" can only be reported within a seven year time period of when they were do. So if the city realized you "owed them" money, which I doubt they did, the debts would have already been on your credit report.
From what i have been reading, the city is having financial challenges and recently increased real estate property taxes. So it seems that they have found all these auto tax payments that they never contacted individuals about. Maybe they had a computer malfunction for 10 years???
I do not feel guilty about not paying since this is a Stamford scam ..way to cheat honest citizens who would have gladly paid the taxes dues when they were due
I haven't researched the details that you stated regarded statute of limitations, but they are plausible.

As for cheating -- well, it is hard to support the allegation that "Stamford is cheating you." Who failed to pay the tax in the first place?

If you really needed to figure out how property tax was calculated, you could have called the Assessment office of the City anytime in the past ten years. That's hardly confidential information.

Yes, I also do not agree with the tactics that Stamford has decided to use. I think that the interest penalty is excessive, and there should potentially have been a grace period before turning the records over to a collection agency.

But, please don't tell us that Stamford is trying to
"cheat honest citizens." Honest citizens pay their taxes when they are due, and accept penalties when they have erred. They don't try to blame government for their errors, nor do they relay on a statute of limitations to let them escape from an obligation.
katie

AOL

#10 Feb 4, 2007
No one ever told the residents that they would be taxed on their cars. It is up to the city or DVM to let citizens know this and send a tax bill on a timely basis. After all, we did not know of the tax and how it is calculated and we still don't know the latter. If they didn't deal with collecting the tax when it was due they are out of luck. I can tell you the IRS and state governments would not be so lax in collecting taxes that are due.

Since: Dec 06

Norwalk, CT

#11 Feb 5, 2007
katie wrote:
No one ever told the residents that they would be taxed on their cars. It is up to the city or DVM to let citizens know this and send a tax bill on a timely basis. After all, we did not know of the tax and how it is calculated and we still don't know the latter. If they didn't deal with collecting the tax when it was due they are out of luck. I can tell you the IRS and state governments would not be so lax in collecting taxes that are due.
Katie, how long did you live in CT? You must have been renting, because if you owned a house you would certainly have known about the property tax.

If you had opened the Stamford Advocate anytime while you were in Connecticut before you responded to this article, you would have known that property tax is collected on motor vehicles in CT.

Yes, I agree: Stamford should have notified you. Perhaps Stamford sold the debts to the collection agency; in that case, they should have made a good faith effort to notify you and everyone else to try to collect before turning the debts over to the agency.

But please, please, stop trying to absolve yourself of personal responsibility. Ignorance is not a valid defense.
katie

New York, NY

#12 Feb 5, 2007
Ignorance is bliss and and that money "owed" is history. Now I am paying 2007 bills not 1993! End of story:)

Since: Dec 06

Norwalk, CT

#13 Feb 5, 2007
katie wrote:
Ignorance is bliss and and that money "owed" is history. Now I am paying 2007 bills not 1993! End of story:)
You sure must be one blissful person, then.

You must never think of being part of a community, and things like funding street repairs, police & fire protection, and education. You know, civic responsibilities. We may not use all of them while we live where we do, but we pay taxes for them because it's in the best interest of the community....

Forgive me for going into an idealistic discussion. I realize you're much more interested in holding on to your little piggy bank, and venting your outrage with other like-minded souls in this forum.

Rant on, wait your 15 years, and chortle that you beat Big Government. I guess I'll just have to take some solace in the fact that you don't live in my neighborhood any more.
kjp

Selma, NC

#14 Feb 8, 2007
My husband got a similar bill & guess what, he does not owe tax to Connecticut for the period billed & we documented it with our NY State & State of CT tax returns from 1996. Guess what else, this proof was not good enough for the City of Stamford!!! They was us to find old record that neiter NY CT or our insurance companies have!!!
I too contacted the Attorney General's Office regarding this obscene standard of proof & they have had 40-50 calls recently regarding just this issue. They advised that we send notarized attestations as to when the vehicle & my husband legally returned to NY.

I bet most of the people who got these bills don't actually owe back taxes, but instead the City of Stamford never took them out of the system when they left.
Robert

Selma, NC

#15 Feb 8, 2007
For years the City of Stamford was one of the top cities to live in, but if a city will send out 10-15 year old bills to people who might not even owe the money, and put an unreasonable burden upon these people to prove the money isn't owed, maybe it's not such a great place to live and these people should be glad they have left such a buracracy behind.

Instead of making people prove that they don't owe the money, maybe the people should form a class and initiate an action requiring the City of Stamford to prove that the money actually IS owed.
katie

AOL

#16 Feb 8, 2007
keep in mind after 15 years you no longer have an obligation to pay and the debt can no longer be reported on credit report ...just ignore it...it will go away. yes i spoke to the AG office too. They weren't too helpful.
Jennifer Eicker

Galena, OH

#17 Feb 10, 2007
I too was just hit out of the blue 8 years after leaving Stamford and having no knowlege of the debt. The interest is staggering.

I accept my responsibility in this matter as I'm sure the majority of people posting here do, but isn't this plain wrong and shouldn't it just be fixed? Can't the city also take the responsibility of making this tax more visible?

Since: Dec 06

Norwalk, CT

#18 Feb 10, 2007
Jennifer Eicker wrote:
I too was just hit out of the blue 8 years after leaving Stamford and having no knowlege of the debt. The interest is staggering.
I accept my responsibility in this matter as I'm sure the majority of people posting here do, but isn't this plain wrong and shouldn't it just be fixed? Can't the city also take the responsibility of making this tax more visible?
From what I've seen here, the majority of the people of people posting here do not.

And yes, it should be fixed. And yes, as I've said here a number of times, I think the penalty is unfair.

The problem is, nobody is going to do it from out of state. Certainly, nobody is going to do it from THIS forum.

You'll either get sympathy from the other ranters, or you get advice from katie, who thinks that you are vindicated if you ignore them for 15 years.

I also wonder how a tax return provides evidence of a property tax payment (see kjp). I guess you could argue that you show the property tax credit on the CT Tax return, but that's not always a full credit. I know a receipt and a canceled check is more credible evidence.
katie

AOL

#19 Feb 11, 2007
This is the situation...Stamford did not publicize that they tax automobiles. Stamford does not have their act together to send out notices and track people down in a reasonable amount of time within the period of when the tax is due. Then when Stamford is in bad financial condition it decides to hire a collection agency and penalize everyone for money it never collected 8-15 years ago. Anyone running a business knows they must charge people for services, taxes etc within the time period they are rendered. If Stamford did not care to be fiscally responsible and publicize taxes, send out tax bills and forward them to new addresses, then it is no longer the former residents/residents responsiblity to pay. It is unreasonable of Stamford to put others in financial hardship because they didn't and still don't have their act together. I pay my bills as I receive them; however I will not be taken advantage of and have my financial health put at jeapordy by Stamford for monies supposedly due back in 1992. It is scary to think that someone providing services etc would forget to bill people and then so many years later hit people with bils of thousands with erroneous interest and collection agency charges. I would not be suprised if Stamford is trying to collect over a million dollars. The residents of Stamford should be outraged by their cities poor fiscal management and this scam and demand an overhaul of their local govenment. Some in this forum and others have indicated they have tried to negotiate with Stamford and pay the original taxes due without interest or penalty. Stamford has been unwilling to accept this.

Oh and legally you are vindicated after 15 years. Stamford and the collection agency are really powerless at this point. All they can do is send you threatening communications.

JENNIFER...a word of advice I would not post your full name on any internet site...you never know who is reading this

Since: Dec 06

Norwalk, CT

#20 Feb 11, 2007
katie wrote:
This is the situation...Stamford did not publicize that they tax automobiles. Stamford does not have their act together to send out notices and track people down in a reasonable amount of time within the period of when the tax is due. Then when Stamford is in bad financial condition it decides to hire a collection agency and penalize everyone for money it never collected 8-15 years ago... It is unreasonable of Stamford to put others in financial hardship because they didn't and still don't have their act together. I pay my bills as I receive them; however I will not be taken advantage of and have my financial health put at jeapordy [sic] by Stamford for monies supposedly due back in 1992... The residents of Stamford should be outraged by their cities poor fiscal management and this scam and demand an overhaul of their local govenment [sic]... Oh and legally you are vindicated after 15 years. Stamford and the collection agency are really powerless at this point. All they can do is send you threatening communications...
I was going to back out of this finally, because I know my words are falling on deaf ears. However, this last post is so painfully delusional that I am compelled to respond one last time.

Every year, the property tax issue is raised in Connecticut, and the inequities in the system are discussed. In fact, this year the issue is more visible than ever, because Gov. Rell is proposing a phase-out of the property tax on automobiles.(Of course, she's also proposing an increase in the income tax, so that's still freaking out the anti-tax nuts.)

Anyway, towns use the property tax money to fund education and local services. The cities in the state are the hardest hit. Because the housing property taxes tend to be lower, the cities are forced to raise the tax rates to raise revenue. The wealthier suburbs have houses (and Hummers) with higher value, so they are able to get away with lower tax rates.

When property tax bills go out, the Tax Assessor's office puts articles in all the local newspapers. They stress, over and over, that if you do not receive a bill, you should contact the Assessors office. You are NEVER absolved from the responsibility to pay. Are you absolved from paying your State or Federal taxes if you don't receive your forms in the mail?

Stamford's local government is far from perfect. They are humans. They make mistakes. But they are not completely incompetent. And they are faced with balancing a budget every year, and they try hard not to stick it to the residents of the city every year. So, once in a while, they are forced with the unenviable task of trying to step up enforcement of back tax collections.

You continue to say that "Stamford did not publicize that they tax automobiles." I cannot contest the fact that someone says they did not receive a bill, but your accusation is absurd. It's discussed on local news reports, and it's publicized in local newspapers. Do you remember how this thread started before your rant? It was an article in the Stamford Advocate.

As for "vindication" for waiting it out for 15 years - I hardly see it as vindication. Vindication is justification against a wrong. You keep stating that Stamford is unwilling to accept their responsibility, but you are unwilling to accept yours. Sounds more like a stalemate to me than a vindication.

It probably makes you happy that you get to keep you money and cheat out the Big Bad Incompetent Government and the citizens of Stamford CT. Fine. I don't understand that attitude, and I guess I never will.

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