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USDisabled military veteran could lose his home over a $236 tax dispute

00:35  16 july  2019
00:35  16 july  2019 Source:   azcentral.com

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Air Force veteran Jim Boerner may lose his Mesa home because of a $ 236 tax bill. Boerner says he paid the taxes but his home went to auction anyway. Tom Tingle, The Republic | azcentral.com.

He had purchased the home , his "nest egg," as he refers to it, for a sum somewhere just north of K Now, at age 49, he is on the verge of being evicted by the new owner of that mobile home In the case of the latter, "owners have two years to pay delinquent taxes before the tax lien is auctioned.

Disabled military veteran Jim Boerner bought his buttercup-yellow mobile home in Mesa two years ago, hoping to live affordably into his old age.

Boerner, 49, is unable to work because of spinal and brain injuries he suffered during a training exercise in 1991 at Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi, he said.

On his limited income, Boerner keeps a cat named Samantha, fixes guitars found at garage sales and brings flowers to widowed neighbors on Christmas, Easter and Mother's Day.

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Disabled vet could lose home over $ 236 in taxes …

To save money, Boerner says he applied to a Maricopa County program that reduces property taxes for people with disabilities and limited incomes. He thought he had been accepted.

So when a stranger knocked on his door last month claiming to have bought his home at auction because of $236 in late taxes, Boerner said he was floored.

"I said, 'What are you talking about? ... This has got to be wrong,' " Boerner recalled. "Had I known I was in peril of losing my home, I would have paid it in full."

Disabled military veteran could lose his home over a $236 tax dispute
Disabled military veteran could lose his home over a $236 tax dispute
Disabled military veteran could lose his home over a $236 tax dispute

Now Boerner is fighting to save his home, knowing he could be forced to pack his things any day.

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Food. Politics. Lester Payne bought a disabled veteran 's mobile home for a few thousand dollars It's shiat that a person can lose their home over a 0 tax bill. But if it's my house on the line I'm not Is his service status relevant to this story, or is it just a play on emotions? It says right in the article that

An Arizona man could be forced to leave his residence after his mobile home was sold at auction. According to the Arizona Republic, Air Force veteran Jim Arizona state law defines mobile homes as personal property and allows for a home to be auctioned if the property tax payment is a day late.

Government officials have scrambled to find loopholes but say there may be nothing they can do. The new owner says he won't negotiate and will begin eviction proceedings soon.

"It's difficult. It’s just difficult," Boerner said through tears on Monday. "I love my home. I love my neighbors. ... This was my nest egg, you know? That's why I paid cash for it. This is where I was going to retire. And now I don't have that assurance anymore."

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What went wrong?

Boerner has had to navigate a labyrinth of bureaucracy to find out what went wrong.

The Maricopa County Assessor's Office handles tax exemptions. The Maricopa County Treasurer's Office collects tax payments and issues delinquency notices. The Maricopa County Sheriff's Office serves delinquent taxpayers with auction notices and conducts the sales.

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Most states offer disabled veterans a property tax exemption, which can save veterans thousands each year depending on state and disability percentage. "If you're a disabled veteran , in almost every single jurisdiction, you can petition your local taxing authority and you can have all of your local

Military Life Home . Join the Military . Fitness. Your son that owns the company could achieve most of these same benefits through participation in a military reserve program. You can too, by following these critical steps. Veteran Jobs Newsletter. Get special job alerts, offers and insider tips on making

"I've been getting the brick wall everywhere I turn," Boerner said.

Treasurer Royce Flora, who has been trying to help, said it's understandable that a taxpayer may feel lost.

"If we can't figure out how to get through the maze, how is he supposed to?" Flora said.

The treasurer believes it's outrageous that Boerner is facing eviction.

If Boerner had lived in a single-family home, he might not be on the verge of being kicked out. Single-family homeowners have five years to pay back taxes before foreclosure.

But different rules apply to mobile homes, which are considered personal property, Flora said. They can be auctioned as soon as tax payments are late.

Arizona law is "not treating (a mobile home) like someone's home," Flora said. "A home is a home, and they should be treated the same."

No record of his application

Boerner's problems began last year, when a sheriff's deputy arrived to tell him he was late on his property taxes and his mobile home could be sold at auction.

Boerner said he was confused.

He remembered filling out paperwork in 2017 soon after he bought the home to apply for a property-tax exemption and receiving a postcard confirming his acceptance.

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Special tax considerations for disabled veterans occasionally result in a need for amended returns. To do so, the disabled veteran will need to file the amended return, Form 1040X, Amended U.S Refund claims based on an incorrect interpretation of the tax law could subject the veteran to interest

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After the deputy's visit, Boerner said he sent another application to the Assessor's Office and received another postcard. He didn't keep either postcard, Boerner said.

Boerner called the Sheriff's Office after last year's visit and learned the home was not scheduled for auction, so he figured things were cleared up, he said.

The Assessor's Office told The Arizona Republic it does send postcards to confirm property-tax exemptions. But after searching thoroughly, the office found no record of Boerner applying for an exemption in 2017 or 2018, although the office keeps all related documents including incomplete and rejected applications.

Another knock on the door

A few weeks ago, a sheriff's deputy arrived at Boerner's home again.

"Are we going to do this every year?" Boerner said he wondered.

The deputy told him he was "perilously close" to losing the home and advised he pay the tax soon, Boerner said.

Boerner called June 13 to make a payment. Two county employees told him the deadline was weeks away.

"There's nothing serious you would need to be worried about as far as the home being in any danger or anything like that," a county call-center employee told him, according to a recording made by the county.

When Boerner asked the amount he needed to pay, he was transferred to another call center employee.

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"Are they going to kick me out between now and June 30?" Boerner asked.

"I would imagine not. I would always advise paying as quickly as you can, but I don't see anything in my comments saying they're going to," the employee replied.

That wasn't true.

Boerner's account with the Sheriff's Office included notes that his home was scheduled for auction June 20, documents show.

A Sheriff's Office spokesman did not respond to questions from The Republic about why Boerner was given incorrect information on the phone about the imminent auction.

The Sheriff's Office employee then told Boerner he owed $641 in total. Of that, $405 was due from last year, the employee said.

When Boerner made the payment online, he said he only remembered $405. That's what he paid.

It wasn't enough. The home was sold at auction a week later for $4,400.

Conversations with the buyer

Soon, a man knocked on Boerner's door and said he had bought the mobile home. How long would it take him to move out, Boehner remembered the man asking.

The man gave an alias, Alex Patron, Boerner said, but business records suggest the buyer's real name is Lester Payne. He purchased the home under a business called Advanced Dynamic Energy Limited.

"I said, 'What are you talking about?' " Boerner said. "He said, 'I have all the documentation.' "

Boerner invited Payne in for a cool drink and called the county to ask what happened. An employee told him he hadn't paid enough in taxes and his home had been auctioned.

Payne offered to sell the home back, Boerner remembered.

"Thank God," he thought. Boerner figured he could pay $5,000, giving Payne a 16% profit.

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Veterans who qualify for a 100 percent disability rating from the VA are entitled to additional benefits not afforded to other veterans . Has been determined by the VA to be permanently and totally disabled as a result of military service and entitled to veterans benefits at the 100 percent rate.

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But Payne said he would only settle for $30,000, nearly as much as Boerner had spent on the home originally and more than he could afford, Boerner said.

"I was begging him to rethink," Boerner said.

Over the next few days, Payne told Boerner he would sell the home for $26,000, and then $52,000, according to text messages Boerner shared.

Payne told Boerner by phone if he didn't pay, Payne could haul the home away at night, Boerner said.

Payne wanted to work with Boerner but the veteran called him and his family nasty names, the buyer told The Republic.

"I'm not going to try to deal with this issue anymore," Payne said.

Text messages Boerner shared with The Republic don't show him calling Payne names, but the veteran did tell Payne he could expose the buyer's criminal rap sheet, which includes felonies for aggravated assault, misconduct involving weapons and endangerment along with misdemeanors for driving under the influence and shoplifting, according to county court records.

"You want a battle, Lester," Boerner wrote. "We will battle."

Payne texted that he was "tired of the threats."

"It's been long enough for you to try to buy the home," Payne texted. "I'm starting (the) eviction process now."

How tax-lien auctions work

From all accounts, it appears Payne legally purchased Boerner's home and has the right to take over the title.

Tax-lien auctions help local governments collect unpaid property taxes that are needed to fund schools, law enforcement and roads.

In the case of single-family homes, owners have two years to pay delinquent taxes before the tax lien is auctioned. And an auction winner has three years to collect the tax payment, plus interest, from the taxpayer before being allowed to foreclose and take ownership of the home.

Disabled military veteran could lose his home over a $236 tax dispute© Tom Tingle/The Republic Jim Boerner, a U.S. Air Force veteran, may lose his Mesa home over $236 in unpaid taxes he thought had been paid. He looks at real estate documents on July 8, 2019.

In the case of mobile homes, state law allows an auction to be held the day after a tax payment is due. In practice, there's a little bit of a delay.

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Veterans can apply for the refund by submitting a claim based on their actual DSP, and actual taxes withheld. Disability severance pay is generally taxable, Dulaney said, but there are certain instances when it’s not taxable, such as when the injury related to the DSP was incurred as a direct result of

The Maricopa County Treasurer's Office allows mobile-home taxpayers 30 days after a tax payment is due before declaring it delinquent and another 30 days before notifying the Sheriff's Office.

The Sheriff's Office decides which mobile homes to auction.

A detective visits the home to confirm its location, notifies the delinquent taxpayer, explains where to make a payment, warns that failing to do so could result in an auction and leaves a notice of sale, said spokesman Sgt. Bryant Vanegas. If a deputy can't serve the taxpayer, the Sheriff's Office publishes a notice in a newspaper.

Once a mobile-home tax lien is purchased, the buyer owns the home and can evict the tenants.

An uncertain future

Boerner said he has no idea where he will live if he loses the mobile home.

He can't burden his parents by living in their small house for long, Boerner said, and he may not be able to afford to buy another place.

"I don't know where I would go," he said.

Flora, the treasurer, has asked the Maricopa County Attorney's Office to investigate.

He thinks the sale should be reversed because the county gave Boerner incorrect information by phone about the timing of the auction and because Boerner paid the 2017 taxes.

The Sheriff's Office typically doesn't auction a home until a year or more of late taxes rack up, so it's curious why the office moved forward based on 2018 taxes that were only a few weeks late.

A sheriff's spokesman did not clarify the decision.

Flora said he will personally pay $15,000 to save the home.

But Payne is no longer willing to sell, he told The Republic on Tuesday.

"I'm keeping the home," he said. "My grandma needs a house. She likes the (mobile home) park."

State lawmakers concerned by Boerner's case said they want to change the law so that mobile-home owners have more time to pay back taxes. But those changes wouldn't be made until the spring when the new legislative session opens.

"A mere $50 can mean the difference between an individual or family being forced to live on the streets," Rep. Bob Thorpe, R-Flagstaff, said.

Thorpe held a meeting at the state Capitol on Thursday with the mobile-home industry, government officials and residents about possible changes to the law.

"I want fairness," Thorpe told the group. "We need to make sure there is enough of a grace period similar to a stick-built home so a person with a fixed income is not going to lose their home out from under them."

Rep. Anthony Kern, R-Glendale, said he will urge Maricopa County Sheriff Paul Penzone to look for a way to reverse the sale.

"Nobody wants a disabled veteran kicked out of his home in 107 degrees," Kern said.

Boerner said the stress is wearing on him.

"It's emotional. It's frustrating," he said. "... It's maddening I could lose my home over $200."

Boerner doesn't know how soon he'll have to leave.

The buyer "could come at anytime and tell me, 'Time to get out,' " Boerner said.

Contact the veteran

Offers of help or encouragement can be sent to Boerner through his attorney, Curtis Ensign, at [email protected] or 602-266-3300.

Tell AZ officials what you think

State Legislature:

Rep. Bob Thorpe held a mobile-home stakeholders meeting Thursday to discuss changes to the law so that mobile homes are treated the same as single-family homes and other reforms. Contact Thorpe at 602-926-5219 or https://www.azleg.gov/emailazleg/?legislatorId=1872.

Rep. Anthony Kern is also interested in the issue. Contact him at 602-926-3102 or https://www.azleg.gov/emailazleg/?legislatorId=1868.

Maricopa County:

Assessor Paul Petersen: 602-506-3406.

Sheriff Paul Penzone: 602-876-1000.

Treasurer Royce Flora: 602-506-8511.

How to apply for a property-tax discount if you are disabled or widowed

You may be eligible for a discount on your property taxes if you are disabled or widowed. You must:

  • Live in Arizona.
  • Have a total assessed property valuation under $26,969.
  • Have income (excluding Social Security payments) under $33,037 if there are no children living with you or under $39,634 if minor children live with you.
  • Have a total and permanent disability certified by a licensed physician or be a widow or widower.
  • Provide several forms of documentation and submit an application form to the Maricopa County Assessor's Office. If you live in a different Arizona county, contact your local assessor for an application.
  • Keep your address updated with the assessor. If you move out of the county, you must reapply with the new county.

The deadline to apply is March 1. Once accepted, you do not need to apply again, but officials may conduct periodic audits to ensure you still meet the qualifications.

For more information, call 602-506-3406 and ask for the Personal Exemptions Department in the Assessor's Office. Download an application form at https://mcassessor.maricopa.gov/static/docs/Personal-Exemption.pdf.

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Disabled military veteran could lose his home over a $236 tax dispute

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