DURHAM, N.C. — Several months ago, WTVD-TV exposed how taxpayers felt they were being overbilled for their vehicles under the new North Carolina tag and tax law.
Glenn Johnson of Durham contacted the station after that story. He claims the county took him for a ride when it came to taxing his vehicles.
When WTVD learned that the county appraised Johnson’s 1966 Chevy Truck at more than $5,400 and his 1976 Chevy Truck at $4,850, the station said they expected to find two classic show vehicles in mint condition. However, this was not the case. They found two trucks that belonged in a junkyard.
When describing his 1966 Chevy, Johnson said, “It’s a real rust bucket, but it’s a good old truck. But, it’s going downhill fast. It’s rusting out real bad.”
His 1976 truck is no better.
Johnson said, “This vehicle I bought to haul some junk around. Now I can’t use it anymore because the engine’s bad. It’s a piece of junk.”
The Durham resident also showed the station his 1965 homemade trailer, a rickety old green farm tow trailer with two wheels. The county appraised it at more than $6,000.
“I agree with the tag and tax law. It’s not a bad law. But, they are not putting a true value on our equipment and vehicles. They’re just not doing it and it’s bad,” Johnson said.
WTVD took Johnson’s tax bill to Kim Simpson, the tax assessor for Durham County and asked why Johnson’s old vehicles were appraised so high.
“Some can call them ‘classic.’ Statutes dictate what a classic vehicle is or an antique vehicle is,” Simpson said.
She said anything 35 years or older is considered a classic or antique. However, Johnson disagrees.
“They claimed that this was may be a classic. It’s a classic rust bucket,” he said.
Yet, the tax assessor says that it is the responsibility of the owner to tell her officer the condition of the vehicles. If not, the vehicles are appraised at whatever the dealer’s retail price is at the beginning of the year.
In Johnson’s case, it is appraised as a ‘classic’ vehicle.
“You see a rust bucket because you see rust, but this is considered a classic vehicle and it can be restored,” Simpson said. “Now, we don’t know if it’s been restored or if it looks just like this. When I get that information in the system and it tells me the year, make and model, that’s all I know. Then, it’s up to the taxpayer to prove to us that this is what it looks like and it’s really not worth what we put on it.”
So that is exactly what Johnson did. He took pictures of his rusty trucks and trailer to the county Tax Office.
“I went downtown, filled out the paperwork and went through the whole process of getting it evaluated,” Johnson said.
After appealing his bill, the Tax Office cut the value on his trucks to $500 each, about one-tenth of their original assessed value.
As for the homemade trailer, it was re-appraised at $200, one-thirtieth of the original value that the county came up with.
“We have limited information, so you have a responsibility as a citizen based on statute to inform the assessor if you agree or disagree with the value in a certain time period,” Simpson said.
Johnson told WTVD he wants other property owners who feel they’ve been overtaxed to follow his example.
“You are going to have to fight City Hall. If you don’t you could be taxed way over what you should be paying,” Johnson said. “I don’t mind paying my taxes at all, or what I owe, but don’t try to tax me something that I don’t owe.”
If you don’t want to end up paying hundreds in taxes you don’t owe, like Glenn almost did, carefully check your tax bill.
If you think your vehicle is appraised too high, check its value in the Kelly Blue Book or within the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA) guide. Look at its dealer retail price not what you can sell it for through a third-party or trade-in. This will give you an idea of its value.
Remember, you have 30 days after you receive your tax bill to appeal it.
If you have a tax bill story or one you’d like the I-Team to investigate, contact Steve Daniels on Facebook or at firstname.lastname@example.org.