Some Indiana taxpayers in for a shock
Tens of thousands of Hoosiers could be in for a shock when they open their property tax bills in mid-April. Many will find their homestead deduction gone. That deduction reduces the assessed value of a home by $45,000.
The reason they won't have it? Because they failed to fill out an important pink slip, a homestead verification form that began going out with property tax bills in 2010.
The forms were part of a state law passed to crack down on fraud. State law allows just homestead deduction for a primary residence. Some property owners have claimed multiple deductions for rental properties or vacation homes in other counties. The forms were designed to help compile a statewide data base, making it easier to identify those claiming the homestead deduction in more than one county.
Under the law, homeowners had three years to fill out the pink forms with county auditor's sending out at least three notices, often more.
But in Marion County for one, more than 28,000 forms have yet to be returned and auditor Billie Breaux says it will show on those property tax bills.
Breaux said, "They're going to go up quite a bit and that's when I'm sure we'll get many more forms in the office."
Pam Roesch, who's lived in her southside home for 20 years, said she had no recollection of the pink form.
"No,I don't remember it, I don't think I got one," she said. "I remember filling out an appeal, but nothing like this."
Roesch said losing the deduction would not be good.
"I want to keep it in play for sure," she said. "I'm retired now and on a fixed income and whenever there's a bump in a utility bill or a property tax bill, it hurts because you're not planning for it."
A call to the auditor's office confirmed that Roesch did indeed fill out the form in 2010, the first year, those pink forms went out.
"Oh, excellent," she said. "you just don't remember something like that from a few years ago. It's just another piece of paper."
Breaux said she understands how people can overlook something like that, given all the mail they get.
"We don't pay attention until it hits us and we believe the tax statement people get this time will actually hit them where it hurts and they will get it back to us," she said.
Breaux said as long as people contact the auditor's office and fill out the form, their bills will be corrected and for now, without any penalty.
She said through the forms, her office has identified roughly 1,500 instances where the owners were claiming multiple deductions. It's allowed Marion County to recoup $3.1 million in back taxes and penalties.
The auditor's office recently hired an outside contractor to help research some 12,000 parcels where it's unclear whether the credit should apply.