It’s hard enough to pay one tax bill, but Mark Lipowsky was seeing double when he got two identical tax bills from the county this month.
The North Potomac resident says he got the two identical bills in the mail for his 2013 Personal Property Tax on Sept. 12.
“I checked the year, the phone number ... to me it was identical,” he said, adding that he got a little upset after contacting the county’s general information hotline only to be told to ignore the additional bill.
Turns out the double billing was just a computer glitch.
The county sends an electronic file of the bills that need to be printed to Foremost Printing Inc., a local printing company hired to do the county’s tax bill printing and mailing. Each printing machine holds between 2,400 to 4,800 pages, and when there is a need to add paper to each machine the company rolls back one or two bills from the file to make sure every resident receives the mailing, said Mike Coveyou, chief of the Division of Treasury in the Montgomery County Department of Finance.
“It doesn’t happen a lot,” said Coveyou. “We only pay for the ones we ask them to print.”
According to Coveyou, the department splits the mailing of property tax bills in two cycles. They mail 300,000 in the beginning of July and the remaining after the end of July.
“That way 311 people don’t get hundreds of calls [from people with tax bill questions],” he added.
It costs the county 53 cents for each letter, which includes printing, return envelopes and postage, but if the double printing is not the county’s fault then taxpayers do not need to pay for extra mailing costs. Coveyou also said the county’s Information Technology Department checks the file before submitting to the printing company to make sure mistakes are not made.
Coveyou could not confirm, however, if any resident had paid a tax bill twice due to duplicate bills.
“I honestly doubt that has ever happened,” he said.
The county is now taking measures to avoid any double billing in the future.
“We’ve talked to the printer after this and they have something in their end [that can avoid duplicates],” said Coveyou, but he is not sure how much extra that process will cost the county taxpayers or “whether it works or not.” But, “it is something that we are looking into right now,” he said.