King County Assessor Lloyd Hara is studying whether thousands of properties have been significantly undervalued for tax purposes, and whether their owners should be billed for underpayment even though the owners may have paid their tax bills in full.
Because the county has the authority, in cases of “manifest error,” to bill landowners for three years of past taxes, millions of dollars could be at stake.
Hara has been working closely with tax consultant and former Assessor Harley Hoppe, who has touted back taxes from underassessed properties as a solution to the county’s projected $60 million budget shortfall next year.
So basically, he’s willing to admit to millions of dollars worth of “manifest error” to save his unworthy hide.
Or maybe not so much. After the Seattle Times reported on Hara’s little scheme, he did a backpedal worthy of Lance Armstrong:
“We all know King County is in a financial pinch,” Hara said in a statement. “But this office, while I’m Assessor, is not going to be nickel and diming every taxpayer in some crazy attempt to balance our budget. We can do better than that.”
To his credit, he didn’t claim to be misquoted.
(Spotted by Jenn, who was not impressed.)