by Cristin Severance and Kelsey Mittauer | CBS11
TARRANT COUNTY, Texas (CBS11) – Wade Bandy runs his garage door repair business out of his home in Arlington. “I had the opportunity to open a business for myself and I took it,” said Bandy. His company is made up of an old truck and a few boxes of parts.
But a big bill from Tarrant County threatened all of it. “Do I close the business? Do I say ‘they finally got me?’ This is my dream.”
The lawsuit said Bandy owed more than $2,000 in back taxes for business personal property. BPP includes anything used in the course of business: tools, inventory, furniture, artwork, etc. It does not include the building or land.
The taxes involved a store front in Richland Hills — one that Bandy had occupied in 2014 for just six months. The paperwork said he hadn’t paid business personal property taxes on the store front for 2015 and 2016. “How can I owe all that money for taxes in a building I wasn’t in?” questioned Bandy.
He thought he would explain it to a judge, but Bandy says he had trouble figuring out exactly when he was supposed to appear in court. The notice from the law firm read, “At or before 10 o’clock of the Monday next, after the expiration of 20 days from the date of service of this citation.”
Bandy did the math and showed up to court, but the clerk had no idea what he was talking about. “He said, ‘you’re not supposed to be here!’ According to the citation, that’s exactly where I’m supposed to be. But the clerk says I need to call the attorney’s office.”
So Bandy called Linebarger, Goggan, Blair & Sampson. He explained his situation to three different people, only to be told to call the Tarrant Appraisal District, or TAD. “Here’s a law firm that doesn’t even know what courtroom to send you to and yet they represent the Tarrant Appraisal District.” When Bandy called TAD he was told someone would call him back with answers; he’s still waiting.
So Consumer Justice called TAD. Jeff Law, the chief appraiser, told us TAD has 16 appraiser to handle accounts for 48,000 businesses in Tarrant County. Law says they aim to field-verify businesses at least once every three years. To help fill in the blanks TAD relies on businesses to fill out an annual rendition form, to provide information about their property. However, TAD says only about half of businesses in the county send back that form.
Bandy did not send in a rendition form. Still, he says he’s concerned about the accuracy of the appraisal process. “If they’re telling me they don’t have time to go to all of these businesses and do a proper assessment, how many businesses like me… are being unjustly taxed for the wrong amounts?”
Days after Consumer Justice contacted Law, he said Bandy’s business was assessed incorrectly and TAD would work to get it fixed. When Law refused to go on camera, Cristin Severance caught up with him after a public meeting.
Law: Mr. Bandy didn’t fill the state rendition forms that the law requires him to. All of our data pointed to the fact that he was at that location. But then he moved, and we weren’t aware of the moving.
Severance: But according to you, half the businesses don’t fill out that form, correct?
Severance: So how do half the businesses know they are being appraised correctly?
Law: We send out an appraisal notice in the spring. And then they review it. If they feel like the value is incorrect, then they can go through the protest process.
Severance (referring to Bandy’s case): Didn’t you get returned mail?
However, Law’s earlier email to Consumer Justice said, “We did discover a returned mail record from the tax office of the returned 2015 tax bill. However, our office did not update the account with the new address.”
After months of back and forth, Wade Bandy finally has some answers. An appraiser came to his home and reduced his assessment by 90 percent. “You saved my business, that’s the bottom line,” said Bandy.
Tarrant County rendition forms will be mailed out beginning January 1, 2018. The forms can also be completed online here.
Renditions are due back to TAD by April 1. If a business does not turn in a rendition on time, a 10 percent penalty will be added to the owner’s tax bill for the current year.