Waimanalo farmer outraged after receiving $17,000 tax bill

A Waimanalo farmer is outraged after he received a property tax bill from the city for five times more than what he usually owes.

Tthe issue surrounds parcels of land that are used for agriculture.

The farmer said an error led to the bill totaling more than $17,000.

He reached out to the city, but was told he’s responsible for paying it, so he contacted KHON2 for help.

KHON2 spoke with the city who said it’s looking into the situation, however the city did confirm the farmer will have to pay the bill.

Paul Ito’s land in Waimanalo has been used for agriculture for decades.

He told KHON2 he normally paid $3,000 in property taxes, but when he got his latest property assessment in December, he owed more than $17,000 for the same pieces of land.

In order to get a tax break, farmers must dedicate their land for agriculture use every five or ten years. Ito said he’s received letters in the past reminding him it’s time to file that paperwork again. However he said this time around, he didn’t receive it.

Ito said he’s leased out his land to other farmers over the years, and has included their information, as required, in city paperwork.

“I called up the Real Property Assessment office and I said ‘how come this is, you know what happened?’ and he said ‘well your dedication expired.’ I said ‘how come you guys didn’t send it to us?’ He said ‘we sent it to the tenant.’ I said ‘why send it to the tenant when the land owner is the only one that can dedicate the land?'”

It turns out the letter was sent to a farmer whose name was on submitted paperwork but no longer leases land on the property.

Ito said as a result, he missed the dedication filing deadline.

“We were not notified. If we had been notified, we would’ve done it properly,” he said.

KHON2 reached out to the city for answers. We’re told the reminder letter is a courtesy. It isn’t required to be sent, and courtesy letter or not, the deadline is non-negotiable.

“The responsibility should still be shouldered by the property owner to file on time,” Steven Takara, an administrator with the Real Property Assessment Division, said.

“This is 10 years. The car registrations they send out every year for crying out loud and they are saying ten years you got to remember that in ten years the dedication is going to be over? I think that’s a bunch of BS,” Ito said.

We asked Takara – is it fair to say ten years is a long time and that somebody could perhaps forget when it’s time to renew? Takara said “One could look at it that way but then one could look at it that they only have to file once every ten years.”

Ito appealed the bill but an independent Board of Review sided with the city, meaning Ito is stuck with the bill. The first half is due on Aug. 20.

“Well I have to get a loan or something,” Ito said.

“We’re going to review our process and see what happened, what transpired and if we do have to alter or amend our processes, we will do so,” Takara said.

Ito had another opportunity to file an appeal, however he told KHON2 he did not want to appeal again because of the cost associated with it.

Once again, the city said the property owner is ultimately responsible for keeping up with their own records. If you have questions about when your filing deadlines are, you can call the Real Property Assessment Division at 808-768-3799.

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