Legislators quiz Fong on tax relief statement

2013-11-05T16:45:00Z Legislators quiz Fong on tax relief statementBy NICK SMITH | Bismarck Tribune Bismarck Tribune

BISMARCK, N.D. _ Lawmakers questioned Tax Department officials Tuesday about legislation requiring that annual tax statements include a section highlighting state-approved property tax relief.

Tax Commissioner Cory Fong told members of the interim Taxation Committee that improvements will be needed to provide more clarity to taxpayers.

The new law requires that each county treasurer update real estate tax statements with approval of the tax commissioner. The statements must include a line indicating “legislative tax relief” that shows how much tax relief was received through bills passed by the North Dakota Legislature.

Fong said work on ensuring the requirements would be met in time for the upcoming tax season began immediately after the Legislature adjourned in May.

“We have 53 county tax statements in our office we’ve never had before,” Fong said.

He showed committee members an example of a Cass County property tax statement, and it quickly drew questions from committee members.

Rep. Jim Kasper, R-Fargo, said the numbers in the legislative tax relief section were confusing.

Rep. Craig Headland, R-Montpelier, asked about the lack of a reference to the eligibility for a 12 percent state-paid property tax relief credit .He questioned whether the tax department had misread legislative intent.

Fong his department followed legislative intent and he said the reference to the 12 percent tax credit was in a separate section of the law not listed among the tax statement requirements.

Fong said his department has done the best it could with the time and resources it ha.s He called it a first step in creating a more clear tax statement.

Rep. Glen Froseth, R-Kenmare, asked Fong why individual counties have not worked at developing an identical tax statement. Fong replied that some counties, such as Cass and Ward counties, have their own systems that have been built over the years at great expense.

“It would take an enormous collaboration” among all 53 counties and local political subdivisions to move toward a unified system, Fong said.

Fong, who’s resigning effective Dec. 31, said it’s an effort he believes should be pursued.

Reach Nick Smith at 250-8255 or 223-8482 or at nick.smith@bismarcktribune.com.

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