Connecticut employers participating in a municipal tax deferral program authorized by an April 1 emergency executive order may have been required to waive some of their legal rights.
Gov. Ned Lamont's Executive Order 7S allows participating municipalities to offer eligible taxpayers, including businesses, a 90 day deferment of any municipal property taxes due between March 10th and July 1, 2020.
Most municipalities chose to use a deferral application form provided by the state's Office of Policy and Management, which required taxpayers to demonstrate they were economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Property taxes eligible for deferment include taxes on real property, personal property, motor vehicles, or any municipal water, electric, and sewer charges.
The goal of the program was to provide temporary relief for taxpayers whose livelihoods suffered due to the pandemic by providing additional time to pay property taxes.
Appeal, Dispute Waiver
However, the Municipal Tax Relief Deferral Application form on OPM's website requires participating taxpayers to waive all rights to appeal or dispute the taxes being deferred.
As a result of the waiver, business owners in need of temporary tax relief because they have no or reduced income and cannot pay their property taxes could only get such relief by foregoing their appeal rights.
The governor's executive order and subsequent guidance made no mention of this policy decision to require the waiver of taxpayer appeal rights. OPM made this decision unilaterally.
In essence, it forced taxpayers, in some cases unknowingly, to make a difficult choice of waiving their legal rights for three months of relief at a time when they are financially vulnerable.
This requirement is directly contrary to the goal of helping struggling Connecticut taxpayers at a time when they need it most.