June 7, 2004 – Real property tax bills for 2003 should be mailed out "within a few weeks," Lt. Gov. Vargrave Richards announced on Monday in a release.
Tax Assessor Roy Martin noted in the release that the bills are based on 1998 assessment levels in accordance with legislation enacted last June 18 to comply with requirements set by District Judge Thomas K. Moore for lifting a moratorium on property tax billings and collections.
Moore imposed the moratorium last year in the midst of a series of rulings in favor of companies that had accused the government of inflating assessments for tax purposes, including basing such assessments on replacement cost rather than market value.
In May 2003, Moore ruled that the government could not collect property taxes from 1999 onward until an independent Special Master appointed by the court certified that the territory's tax assessment system was equitable and reliable in determining the actual value of property.
At the same time, he provided a way for the government to continue collections: It could issue the 1999 through 2004 tax bills based on the illegal 1998 assessment values, provided that it established a mechanism to adjust the assessments and bills retroactively. That would entail giving credits for overpayment and issuing supplemental bills for underpayments once the system was corrected.
A bill passed by the Legislature in June and signed into law on July 14 set up that safeguard, Moore said in an Aug. 13 ruling. (See :"Judge: Property Tax Collections Can Resume".)
Payment on the 2003 bills will be due by Aug. 31, according to the release. After that, interest at the rate of 1.5 percent per month and late-fee penalties will accrue.
"Property owners are asked to read their bills carefully and follow the instructions," the release stated. Questions should be directed to the Tax Assessor's Office at 776-8505 on St. Thomas, 773-6459 on St. Croix, 773-6459 in the Christiansted area, 772-3115 in Frederiksted and 776-6737 on St. John.
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