Local business owner Edward Bruns wants Wadena County residents to be aware of a penalty that they could avoid in paying for their property taxes.
Bruns recently paid his property taxes to three counties, Wadena, Traverse and Otter Tail counties. Each of the payments was sent early, but postmarked a day late, which signaled a penalty fee to the taxpayer. Bruns said he was informed by Traverse County that since 2017 there is a one-time penalty abatement if the payment is postmarked one day late. Traverse and Otter Tail counties forgave the penalty. The 2017 law came into place address issues of late mail. So he was able to avoid the penalty. He said in Wadena County, however, he was sent a bill for the penalty, but was not given notice of the abatement option.
Bruns brought his concern to Wadena County Commissioners Tuesday, June 4. He felt that it was the county government's job, namely Auditor/Treasurer Heather Olson to inform him of the law.
When he brought up the law about the abatement option he was sent a form to fill out to sign that he would like to receive the one-time abatement on that property. He felt that he should have just been able to give them his word over the phone rather than my mailing back a form, added paperwork.
The penalty fee was $44.96, which Bruns said he had no problem paying, he just wanted it to be known that people don't necessarily have to pay the penalty if they find themselves in this unique situation.
"How many people pay tax penalties because of the late filing fee?" Bruns asked. "I think she should be sending a letter like this to everybody that paid a penalty so they know the right law. That's her responsibility as a county treasurer and auditor."
According to Bruns he was told that it's his responsibility to know the laws.
Commissioners heard from Olson who said that the statute says it is a one-time abatement at the request of the taxpayer. That is what she follows. A form is issued to those requesting the abatement in order to keep track of those who have made the request.
"I don't think that's ridiculous for my department to have a history of who has requested the abatement," Olson said.
She said another 10 taxpayers have followed this routine without any issues. She added that she contacted five other counties to hear their procedures. One other uses a form and three have not gotten into this situation.
"My big concern over this whole thing is this should have been included with the late fee so the people know," Bruns continued. "It's not about the money. I just think people have the right to know."
While commissioners took no action on the matter, Commissioner Bill Stearns said Bruns' message would be heard once published by the three newspapers in attendance at the commission meeting.
Anyone paying late in person or online cannot get a penalty abatement, this is just for those postmarked a day late.
Check out the law within the Minnesota Statute 279.01 to read more about this.