Taxation without Authorization

Taxation without Authorization

Thirty-eight households to be refunded thousands in taxes.

“Wow,” was the first thing that came to mind when Jeanne Robertson was told she’d be getting a refund check from the county for about $1,500.

Robertson, a Reston resident, lives in one of 38 homes that have incorrectly paid taxes to support the Reston Community Center since as far back as 1986. Homes on the 12000 block of Lake Newport Road, west of Stuart Road, sit beyond the boundaries of the Small Tax District #5, set up 27 years ago to fund RCC. Due to an error by the Department of Tax Administration, the county included these households in the tax district — a mistake that would have gone unnoticed had it not been for Kevin Deasy.

Last October, Deasy was elected to serve on the RCC Board of Governors. As a non-Reston resident, Deasy ran for the position to better represent the approximately 1,400 households in the tax district that are not within the Reston Master Plan.

In January, while trying to get a better grasp of the tax district boundaries, Deasy noticed something strange. “These home were marked as paying the tax, even though they were outside the boundary,” said Deasy, who reported the error to Bonnie Freeman, RCC’s executive director.

AFTER THAT, it wasn’t long before the news reached Kevin Greenlief, Fairfax County’s Department of Tax Administration director.

“Since I’ve been here [since 1995], this is a first,” said Greenlief, acknowledging the mistake. “I guess when they originally looked at it, they didn’t realize that one half of the street was in and the other half wasn’t.”

In total, the 38 households could expect a refund of $100,000, according to Greenlief. “I think it’s going to be in that neighborhood,” said Greenlief. “We have to go back and look at all the assessments.” If that estimate holds up, each parcel could average a refund of $2,631.

Greenlief is required to obtain a court order to permit the refund. He said that, barring any difficulties, residents will receive refunds for every year they incorrectly paid the tax. “Fortunately, the law does give us a vehicle to right the wrong,” said Greenlief.

Former residents of the 12000 block who incorrectly paid the tax are also eligible for a refund, said Greelief, who added that the county will do its best to get in touch with those residents. These former residents can also contact the county to receive a refund.

News of the refunds still haven’t reached most residents affected by the error.

Bill D’Agostino, who has lived on the 12000 block of Lake Newport Road for 14 years, said he’d like to get confirmation from the county. “I can’t offer any reactions until I hear from the county,” said D’Agostino, who paid $321 in RCC taxes last year alone. But, D’Agostino said, if he does get a refund, “it certainly would be welcomed,” he said.

FREEMAN DID NOT comment for this article, except to say that Supervisor Cathy Hudgins (D-Hunter Mill) was handling the issue.

Since hearing about the error last month, Hudgins has worked with Greenlief to expedite refunds.

“We were all startled by this,” said Hudgins. “As it was identified, we researched it and verified it, and then I brought it to the attention of [Greenlief].”

Hudgins said that she wanted to be sure that this wasn’t happening somewhere else and asked Greenlief to check.

“As best I can see, this was an aberration,” said Greenlief. “We’re going back and checking, but I don’t expect to find anything.”

While the residents who will be receiving refunds don’t know Deasy, they may soon be sending him a thank you card. “We owe a great deal to Kevin, I guess,” said Robertson. “I’m shocked that’s it’s gone unnoticed this long.