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Refunds on way for tax slip-up
State error led to vehicle overcharge
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Forsyth County News

Flowery Branch at West Forsyth

By: Jim Dean

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Forsyth County is sending a belated birthday present to about 875 residents.

The money, an average of $15 per person, is a refund for an overcharge on 2010 vehicle ad valorem taxes stemming from a Georgia Department of Revenue error.

Dubbed the "birthday tax" because payment is due by the vehicle owner’s birthday, only those with birthdays in January and February will be affected.

“The state just wasn’t expecting the values to increase,” said Forsyth County Tax Commissioner Matthew Ledbetter. "Normally, vehicles decrease in value.

“We went ahead and corrected it as soon as the state said that they made a mistake.”

Beth Brown, spokeswoman for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said the revenue department raised assessments on some less fuel efficient vehicles in response to high gas prices.

“When the cost of gas went so high about a year and a half ago, the value of sport utility vehicles and heavy trucks greatly depreciated,” she said.
"Because the cost of gas had come down, the value of those vehicles actually came up last year.”

However, a law passed during the last legislative session placed a moratorium on raising assessments.

Though counties can’t increase taxes as a result, ad valorem taxes are based on the state revenue department’s database.

Ledbetter said the problem was corrected early on, so only people who paid during the first few weeks of the year will receive a refund.

About 210,000 vehicles are registered in the county, so less than half a percent of local vehicle owners were overcharged.

The office sent a total of $13,556, with individual checks ranging from $0.24 to $69.65.

Those getting a check should receive it in the mail in the next week or so, Ledbetter said.

Originally, the county’s tax office wasn’t going to send refund checks for less than $5, which is about the cost of sending them. But Ledbetter said he decided to “issue checks for every bit of that money.”

“It’s their money," he said. "Even though it costs Forsyth County money to issue the checks, it’s only fair to give Forsyth County citizens what they’re due. It’s the right thing to do.”

Melissa Weinman of the FCN regional staff contributed to this report.