Hopkins County Commissioners were asked to consider a request for the county to refund a property tax payment made by one man on someone else’s taxes.
Hopkins County Tax Assessor/Collector Debbie Pogue Mitchell explained that Carlos Whitaker paid someone else’s property taxes because there was a tax suit on it. She said she received a letter asking that the payment be refunded to Whitaker. The letter said Whitaker had previously been informed that paying the taxes owed to Sulphur Springs ISD would entitle him to a deed. There was a significant amount of taxes due on the account; Whitaker paid the county taxes.
“Someone had told the man if he paid the taxes, it was going to be his. He didn’t pay Sulphur Springs ISD because they were quite a bit more than ours, but he did pay Hopkins County for three accounts in the amount of $5,367.16. So, they are asking for a refund of that money back to Mr. Whitaker,” Mitchell noted.
Hopkins County Judge Robert Newsom explained that Pogue directed the request to the Commissioners Court because the paid tax amount is over $500; any refund above $500 requires a ruling by the Commissioners Court.
“I have to do refunds all the time for things from the Appraisal District but I don’t ever have customers that pay other people’s accounts that come back and ask for a refund. That’s also very unusual,” Pogue noted.
“So basically, Mr. Whitaker paid someone else’s taxes? Those taxes were due and he willingly provided us those funds to pay for those taxes?” Precinct 1 Commissioner Mickey Barker asked.
“Was it with the intent that he was going to own that property if he paid taxes?” Precinct 4 Commissioner Joe Price asked.
“Yes,” Mitchell affirmed to both enquiries. “It wasn’t my office; apparently somebody else told him if he paid back taxes it would be his.”
Precinct 3 Commissioner Wade Bartley asked why he didn’t go through his attorney to handle that transaction.
“I don’t know,” Mitchell replied to Bartley. “I didn’t wait on him. I don’t know what his intent was. The first story that I was kinda involved with this man, he thought his house would build on one of these tracks. It is not, had nothing to do with it. The one acre that his house is on is like three tracts over. I don’t know where he got his information. I have no idea what the man had in his mind.”
Bartley pointed out the man did not go through the proper channels regarding the matter.
Mitchell recommended that the $5,367.16 paid by Whitaker on the other person’s taxes be refunded to him.
“He should get his money back. He’s not going to get the property,” Mitchell said, noting that approximately $10,000 in taxes are still owed to Sulphur Springs ISD for the properties in question. “Just because he paid me, he’s not going to get the property, and it wouldn’t matter if he paid the school, he’s not going to get the property. It does have a suit on it, but he was way out of line in paying the taxes.”
Barker asked if the county has been in contact with the Linebarger firm noted in the letter regarding the firm’s recommendation regarding the matter. Mitchell noted that county officials has contacted the firm, but did not ask for their suggestion regarding the matter.
“I didn’t ask if they suggested, this is what we should do. We should give the man his money back,” Mitchell said.
Barker asked where the mix-up occurred. She said the letter alleges someone else had previously told Whitaker that he would be entitled to the deed if he paid SSISD the taxes owed by the end of the year, that he would be entitled to the deed for it.
“My opinion is he was not trying to pay the taxes for someone. His intent was was not to pay the taxes for someone. His intent was to gain the land so he was misinformed,” County Auditor Shannah Aulsbrook said.
“It needs to have the step to have a judgement put on it and sold on the courthouse steps. If he wants to come buy it there, so be it,” Mitchell said, noting that the property owner did not receive the money paid on the property by Whitaker. “I’ve got the money and I want to give it back to him.”
Bartley said he’d like to have more time to think about the matter, and made a motion to table the matter. Price seconded the motion. The Commissioners Court unanimously agreed to table the request until a later time