Board changes tax refund policy

Published 9:37 pm Friday, January 8, 2016

County commissioners voted at the Jan. 4 meeting to fall in line with a change in state law that eliminates notification and automatic refund of county tax overpayments between $1 and $15.

Instead, overpayments will be credited to the taxpayer’s tax bill for the following year, unless a taxpayer requests a refund before the end of the fiscal year.

The language of the law says the taxpayer must apply for the refund in person at the tax office, but Beaufort County Tax Collector Wyn Kinion recommended the county allow those seeking a refund be able to call or email their request. Kinion’s modification came at the recommendation of the University of North Carolina School of Government.

The change serves as a cost-saving measure for the county, as the price of processing a refund between $1 and $15 could easily be higher than the amount of the refund. The Beaufort County Finance Office estimates the processing cost to be $6.62 per refund request.

For any tax overpayment of more than $15, a taxpayer will continue to receive notification of overpayment and be given the option of a refund or credit — taxpayers will have 30 days to determine which. If there is no response to the notice, overpayment will automatically be credited to next year’s tax bill. While the law does not require notification of overpayments more than $15, the UNC School of Government, and Kinion, again recommended the tax office send out notices.

The other change to the state law has to do with interest: a taxpayer who has overpaid taxes between the $1 and $15 range, but paid before the due date and subsequently requested a refund, will receive interest on that refund if it has not been issued by the date on which payment would have become delinquent — in this case, Jan. 6. The refund will accrue interest starting Jan. 6 until the refund is issued, according to County Manager Brian Alligood. The state law says no interest is owed by the county on amounts over $15, Alligood said.

What hasn’t changed in the law is that overpayments of less than $1 are simply absorbed by the county, requiring no refund or notification.

Commissioners voted 7-0 to apply the changes with Kinion’s recommendations.