LIHUE — A senior citizen in Kapaa emailed The Garden Island recently to complain about a county employee who told him not to waste his time trying to get a property tax exemption that could save him over a thousand dollars. Here is the nature of the dispute.
Denis Gueret turned 60 last year, which made him eligible for a tax exemption established to lighten the financial burden on senior citizens that would knock $180,000 off the taxable value of his home.
He learned about the rule during a phone call to the county Department of Finance in late December. The employee he spoke to told Gueret he had already missed the Sept. 30 deadline but said he could appeal before the end of the year.
With only a few days left, Gueret took time off from work in order to make it to Lihue before the county offices closed, filed his appeal and paid the $25 fee.
“A few days later I got a call from the Property Tax Assessor office, from a gentleman who explained to me that I was wasting my time with this appeal,” Gueret wrote in an email to TGI. “He emphatically stated that there was not a shred of a chance that I would have my request granted, nobody ever does anyway, and besides this was my fault for not informing myself properly.”
According to Gueret, the tax assessor told him the $25 would be better spent paying bills and said he was welcome to return and get his money back.
“Why is county even bothering with this appeal charade?” Gueret asked in his email. “Talking to friends and colleagues, I have found out I’m not the only one who got conned into this silly little game. Just remove the appeal clause on the literature that comes along with the trash removal statement or make the appeal process a reality, not just some decorative knick-knack to give the appearance of good faith.”
Finance Director Reiko Matsuyama responded to Gueret’s complaint in an email Wednesday with the following statement:
“Our understanding is that the appraiser was trying to assist the taxpayer by merely informing him that it may not be in his best interest to appeal, as historically, the (Board of Review) has not ruled in favor of taxpayers who miss a home-exemption deadline. The appraiser had the right intentions in assisting the taxpayer, but we understand how it could have been misinterpreted.”
Gueret was less than satisfied with Matsuyama’s explanation, which he described as going in a circle.
“If I was wasting my time, then don’t let me file,” he said.
Caleb Loehrer, staff writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or firstname.lastname@example.org.