DOR director Brenda Henson had just given the Joint Appropriations Committee a report about the state’s new property tax refund program, which has provided more than $10 million in refunds to eligible property owners over the past two tax years.
Larsen suggested that some residents might see the refund program as evidence that the state collects more property tax than needed – but that perception is likely due to a lack of understanding about “who collects” the tax and “where those tax dollars go.”
“In my county, as I’ve attended property tax conversations with our assessor and with citizens, the biggest challenge that I faced is just helping them understand (that),” Larsen said. “I would say 90-plus percent of people in my county feel that property taxes come here to the state and are used as general funds, (and) I can see why they would sense that, because we have this state property tax refund – we’re refunding this tax that the state has collected. …
“As we have this broad conversation on property taxes, it’s just really important to be able to educate people.”
Henson agreed that, even though property owners receive tax bills outlining “where their dollars go,” some people still might think “there are (property) tax dollars that go to the state general fund,” since the state administers the property tax refund program.
“You’re right (about) providing some information and educating our taxpayers,” she said. “We’d be happy to do that if you think that would be a benefit.”
The DOR already provides educational outreach in the form of speaking engagements, webinars, and pamphlets, she noted, but the information could include more explicit statements indicating that “none of your property tax dollars went to the state general fund.”
“I just think (we should take) any opportunity we have to help educating,” Larsen replied. “As you well know, it’s a very emotional subject, and we don’t oft-times do our best work with that kind of emotion.”
Henson also pointed out that the entities listed on property tax bills all hold public budget hearings that residents can attend in order to learn more about “where their tax dollars are being spent.”
For more information about Fremont County property taxes, click here.