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Coding error results in mailing of incorrect delinquent tax notices

BROOKSVILLE — An error in coding forced Hernando County Tax Collector Sally Daniel to re-send delinquent tax notices to many of the 4,679 county property owners who received incorrect bills earlier this month.

An employee with the office of the property appraiser, with which Daniel shares an information technology department, accidentally keyed in the 2013 tax year when preparing the bills. That meant all of the bills were lower than the actual taxes owed.

Daniel said her office didn't catch the error before the bills were mailed. As soon as she learned of the mistake, she had all of the unpaid bills sent again with the corrected amount. That number totaled 4,460.

In the short period of time before the corrected bills were mailed, some property owners paid the wrong amount, based on the initial bills. Those payments were returned because, by law, Daniel's office cannot accept a partial payment.

Further complicating the situation was the fact that Daniel's office requires that delinquent taxes be paid by cashier's check, money order, online or in person with a credit card.

Personal checks and business checks are generally not accepted. But Daniel said that if people had paid the wrong amount using one of the accepted methods and only owed a small amount more, she has allowed personal checks for payment of the difference. She has also given people more time to pay because of the confusion.

The mistake cost a couple thousand dollars to fix, as Daniel gets the discounted, presorted postage rate of 47 cents an envelope.

Although one irate woman complained about penalties she had to pay on her delinquent taxes, Daniel said "everybody's been pretty nice about it."

Still, she said, she regretted the error.

"I hate what happened here,'' she said. "Our people should have caught it on this end.''

Contact Barbara Behrendt at bbehrendt@tampabay.com or (352) 848-1434.

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