As a small business owner, a huge portion of my time is spent feeding governments with all the paperwork they demand. But this year has been twice as bad. Every local authority we operate in has started mining for dollars. What this has meant is a whole slew of property "reassessments" that have no basis in reality (e.g. values put on non-existent assets) that I have to spend a lot of my time fighting. The general modus opperandi is to declare my company owes money for something fictitious, and then make us prove we don't. Have you ever tried to prove you don't own an asset that doesn't exist? Think about it. How would you go about it, short of inviting the assessor out to your property to search for it.
Maricopa County, the county that includes Phoenix where my headquarters resides, has been the worst. We buy assets for properties all over the country, and have the bill sent to our headquarters. Often, if a registration is required, we will put our headquarters address on the government registration to make sure we get the renewal paperwork (long experience is that if anything gets sent out to an address in the field, it is lost). The concept that an asset might be in location X but the paperwork should be sent to location Y is a really, really hard concept for a lot of state registration authorities to get their head around/
This year, Maricopa County has started sending us personal property tax notices for all kinds of assets that have never even existed in this county. They were bought in state A, shipped to state B, with the bill sent to us here in Arizona. But the County is in financial distress. It probably understands that the asset does not exist in the County. I am sure it knows that I don't, for example, have 24 cabins sitting on the fourth floor of this building, where they have them located. But they need money. If they send out enough fraudulent bills, and then tell taxpayers it is the taxpayer's responsibility to prove the bill is wrong, then they will likely get some money. Yet again, the government is engaging in abusive practices that not private company could get away with for long.
I was pretty calm today on the phone with the assessor until this came up:
Me: Look, these are cabins I bought from a factory in Maricopa County but which were shipped immediately from the factory to California.
Assessor: I don't see where you filed for permission to move the cabins
Me: Excuse me?
Assessor: Your xxxyyy form [I forget the numbers]. You never filed for permission to relocate
WTF? I know we have problems with declining tax roles, but do I really have to ask permission to move an asset out of the county or state. What, did I violate directive 10-289?
So beware small businesses. Your government is mining for dollars -- do not assume that tax bill is correct.