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Refunds going out for vehicle tax overcharge
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Georgia residents with January and February birthdays soon may receive a surprise gift.

Hall County Tax Commissioner Keith Echols said refund checks are being mailed out this week to residents who were overcharged for their 2010 vehicle ad valorem taxes.

"We’re having to do about 1,100 refunds," Echols said.

An error by the Georgia Department of Revenue caused the owners of some larger trucks and sport utility vehicles to pay more this year.

Beth Brown, spokeswoman for the Association County Commissioners of Georgia, said the Department of Revenue raised assessments on those vehicles in response to gas prices.

"When the cost of gas went so high about a year and a half ago, the value of sport utility vehicles and heavy trucks greatly depreciated," Brown said.

"Because the cost of gas had come down, the value of those vehicles actually came up last year."

But because of House Bill 233, passed during the 2009 General Assembly, which placed a moratorium on raising assessments, counties cannot charge owners for the increased value of their vehicles.

"It basically said counties are not allowed to increase any kind of taxes in that two-year moratorium period that bill established," Brown said.

"But counties base their ad valorem taxes for vehicles on a database that’s provided by the Department of Revenue."

Once tax commissioners across the state received the database, they sent out the bills for January and February.

"They didn’t catch that the value of those vehicles had actually gone up," Brown said.

It’s unusual for value of a vehicle to appreciate; they almost always decrease with each passing year.

Echols said refunds range from as low as $5 to $60, depending on the car.

"Most of them are in the $20 range," Echols said.

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