Raising tax revenue without raising taxes
As tax rates increase, so too does the importance of collecting all the revenue legitimately due the taxing authorities. The loss of legitimate tax revenue because of invalid property tax exemptions can be costly if periodic reviews are not performed. But with the continued tightening of municipal budgets, the task of manually reviewing properties for the validity of the current exemptions is often prohibitive. For help, municipalities can look to the National Inquiry System (DNIS), an on-line investigative database containing the names and addresses for 90 percent to 95 percent of the country’s adult population.
The system also contains dates of birth for approximately 80 percent of the population, and it can include telephone numbers and drivers, license numbers for several states. Searches may be conducted using name, address, date of birth, driver’s license number or combinations of these.
Real property records are currently being added to the system, making more than 40 million residential and commercial property records available from more than 30 states and over 600 counties.
Searches may be conducted in the property record database using name, site address and mailing address. They may be performed on a county, state or national level and can include tax assessor files and sales records, where available.
The Dallas City Auditor is using the investigative on-line database to identify properties with invalid homeowners, exemptions and owners with over-65 years of age exemptions who do not legally qualify because of income or marital status.
The database helped identify several million dollars in additional taxes that were payable to the city because of identification of these unqualified exemptions.
By providing up-to-date listings of all adult residents at an address, along with their dates of birth, the system can verify whether the homeowner actually resides at the address and/or if the homeowner is older than 65 years of age.
Many times homeowners take tax exemptions based on resident status and 65-plus status without qualifying for them legally. Often, this is not the result of an intentional fraudulent action on the homeowner’s part. Instead, the homeowner may have died, leaving the property in the hands of heirs who may not take the necessary action to legally change the name of the property.
Also, a homeowner may move to a different residence, retaining ownership of the previous residence but neglecting to advise the tax assessor.
The homeowner may not be aware that an invalid exemption exists. Still, when the intentionally fraudulent exemptions are added in, the scope of invalid exemptions can become sizable.
Identifying the unqualified exemptions can increase tax revenues for all the municipal taxing authorities affected by the invalid exemptions.
The DNIS system is accessed online via PC and modem. Investigators sign on by entering their account numbers and passwords. Then, searches can be performed by name and/or address and a list of all adults at an address, including date of birth obtained. In some cases, a driver’s license number will be returned also.
Results of on-line searches are displayed on the investigator’s PC, and when there are large volumes of searches, a batch process is available.
The system, comprised of public records, includes drivers, license files, voter registration files and other public records sources. New and updated records are added quarterly using the postal service National Change of Address information.
Through the updates, users can obtain historical information, including previous addresses, on subjects in question.