September 12, 2013

I served as associate director for real property taxes at the D.C. Department of Finance and Revenue for tax years 1981 to 1987. During that time, our total real estate tax collections equaled 99.85 percent of the total tax levy, and we found that successful collections related more to the accuracy of our billing system than the threat of a tax sale. We found that if we sent out accurate, timely tax bills to the correct person at the correct address, property owners would pay their bills.

We also had a special program to help a property owner avoid losing his or her home. After all payments had been processed and prior to a tax sale, we would run a match of delinquent properties against those properties with a homestead or owner’s exemption. We arranged for the mayor to issue a grant to a nonprofit housing assistance groups. We would provide the housing assistance group with a list of delinquent, owner-occupied properties. The group then would make every effort to assist the owners in saving their homes.

The District failed in turning over its statutory obligation in this area to buyers of tax liens. This process only added to the burden of taxpayers who already had trouble paying their bills. I never attended the tax sale, by the way; I found it distasteful.

Robert King, Mount Holly, Va.