Y2K glitch causes bad car-tax bills

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Y2K glitch causes bad car-tax bills

Mark Zaretsky, Register Staff January 03, 2001

About 22,000 people around the state have been double-billed for motor vehicle taxes as a result of a Y2K error that wasn’t discovered until September.

Motor vehicle owners who had received supplemental tax bills last January were inadvertently carried over onto the supplemental list for a second year, Department of Motor Vehicles spokesman William Seymour confirmed Tuesday.

People were double-billed even though their vehicles were listed on Oct. 1, 1999, grand lists, and the fiscal 2000-2001 tax bills were based on those grand lists, Seymour said. The current supplemental list covers vehicles registered to new owners between Oct. 2, 1999 and July 31, 2000.

Assessors in several Greater New Haven cities and towns said they caught some, but not all, of the mistakes before the bills went out. Some communities already had printed or mailed their tax bills or failed to catch some of the duplicate bills before they were mailed out.

Many Connecticut taxpayers received their bills during the past week.

The roughly 22,000 duplicate bills represent about 4 percent of Connecticut’s more than 500,000 motor vehicle registrations.

"We’re thankful it was a small number relative to the largest number" that it could have been, Seymour said.

"Essentially, this duplicate creation was caused by a Y2K problem that we did not expect," Seymour said.

The DMV’s computers corrected the primary Y2K problem in early December 1999, when the department transferred the grand lists of taxable property it prepares for municipalities to new, Y2K-compliant computers at the state Department of Information Technology, he said.

But the computer program didn’t catch other erroneous information that had been based on the original list. That’s what caused the supplemental bill problem, Seymour said.

The data transfer was part of the state’s extensive plan to cope with computer problems that might have resulted from the change of calendars from 1999 to 2000.

After discovering the duplicate bills, "we notified the towns in October … and we then provided them with an updated list in November," Seymour said.

A smaller numberof additional motor vehicle owners were listed on the supplemental list because of a human data-entry error, Seymour said. Those people were added after renewing their vehicle registrations, he said.

Seymour said people who believe they have been incorrectly double-billed should call the assessors in their towns.

"Anybody who has any question concerning their bills needs to call their assessor’s office," he said. "That’s where they’re going to get the most immediate and up-to-date information."

Up to 1,800 people in New Haven alone may have received duplicate bills, although the city caught some in time, New Haven Assessor William O’Brien said.

The city had about 1,200 vehicle owners who were issued supplemental tax bills because of the Y2K problem and another 600 because of the keypunch error, O’Brien said.

"We caught some in time, but all of the information did not get to us from the motor vehicle department in time," O’Brien said. He urged anyone with questions about their motor vehicle tax bills to call the assessor’s office at 946-6047 or the tax collector’s office at 946-8054.

Milford Assessor William Gaffney said he believes his office caught all of the duplicate bills before they went out.

But West Haven Assessor Joan Robinson said her office had received calls from residents who believed they had received bills in error.

Robinson said her office had heard there was a problem, particularly affecting motor vehicle owners whose last names begin with the letter "S." "But we had already gone to print," she said.

Her office has corrected about 200 bills so far, Robinson said.


-- Martin Thompson (mthom1927@aol.com), January 03, 2001

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