Dixmont residents upset over tax law implementation

Posted March 26, 2012, at 7:58 p.m.

DIXMONT, Maine — A couple of years ago, a local business owner complained about being one of the only members of the town to pay personal property taxes.

Now everyone has to fill out a form.

“Nobody’s happy now,” said Selectman Judy Dann.

A blue piece of paper was included in the recent annual town report. That piece of paper was a personal property tax form that residents are required to fill out and return to the town.

An informational meeting was attended by nearly 50 people last Thursday. The selectmen brought in Mike Rogers of the Maine Revenue Service to help answer questions.

“The purpose of the meeting was to debunk any myths regarding personal property tax,” said Rogers.

The law essentially states that property that is valued at more than $1,000 and is not specifically exempt is taxable. Exemptions include items that are already taxed, such as excise tax for registered vehicles, and items in someone’s home. Items that might be taxable include tractors, cargo trailers, and office furniture and equipment.

“If it’s not specifically exempt, it’s probably subject to a tax if it is over $1,000 in value,” said Rogers.

Some in the audience were upset that more money would be coming out of their pockets.

“They lived here for 40 years and never had to pay,” said resident Ben Brown.

Towns are required by the state to collect the tax from all residents, but few towns actually do. Most towns only require businesses to fill out the form.

Only two other towns near Dixmont have their residents fill out the form — Troy and Detroit. Other area towns contacted said that only businesses were required.

Many who attended Thursday’s meeting asked, in essence: Where’s the equality?

“Our problem isn’t with the tax, it’s the consistency across the state,” said resident Linda Brown, wife of Ben Brown. “We were having such difficulty finding out what towns are actually doing this.”

Dann said Dixmont can’t control what other towns do.

“This town has no ability to solve that. That’s a legislative issue,” said Dann. “We will work with people who want to fill out the forms and do what’s right by the law.”

The tax is nearly impossible to enforce, said resident David Bright.

“They don’t have the resources to do it right,” he said. “For them to do it as the state says they should be doing it, they’d be spending more money than they’d be taking in [by paying someone to go from house to house to enforce the tax].”

Rogers agreed that the tax is hard to enforce. He said homeowners can refuse to have a tax assessor come into their home.

“Discovery of personal property is the difficult part,” said Rogers.

Rogers went on to say that not many people would actually have to pay a tax. A few people at the meeting asked about lawn mowers being taxed.

“How much are lawn mowers actually worth?” Rogers asked, adding that assessors include depreciation in determining value.

Dann said even businesses that paid the tax last year didn’t have to pay very much.

“Most of them were less than $100,” said Dann.

Assistant House Majority Leader Andre Cushing, R-Hampden, attended the meeting and said that having residents pay the tax could decrease real estate taxes.

“If you need an amount of money to pay for the town and you choose to garner it through real estate taxes and personal property taxes, that may have a positive impact on the amount of property taxes that are collected because that will change the mill rate,” Cushing said after the meeting.

Farmers may be affected most by the law. Many have equipment that could be taxed.

“There are specific tax relief options for [farmers] and they don’t know about that,” said Dann, adding that other work sessions will be scheduled to help people with the taxes.

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