City Desk

Neighborhood Watch: Are New Proposed Tax Bills for Mount Vernon Triangle Condo Associations Taxing?

The Issue: Condo associations in the Mount Vernon Triangle neighborhood are none too pleased with a proposed initiative of the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR). Under a pilot program, OTR would send one lump-sum tax bill to each condo association, rather than individual bills to each condo owner. So what? Condo associations don't want the responsibility of collecting the $120 per-unit tax imposed by the Mount Vernon Triangle Community Improvement District (MVT CID), nor to be seen as the bad guy passing along more in the way of hated condo fees. And what happens when some residents don't pay up?

The Middle Man Is Not Thy Neighbor's Keeper: Members of the affected condo associations—including 555 Mass Ave., City Vista, The Sonata, and Madrigal Lofts—accuse OTR of lazy government, saying collecting taxes is not a condo association's job. "It will force us to be the middle man, the bad guys," says Thais Austin, president of the 555 Mass Ave. association. "If someone doesn't pay their taxes we are going to have to foreclose and be held liable for any additional costs," says Austin. The $120 in extra fees might not seem like much, but associations feel this arrangement could shift the burden "of unpaid [Business Improvement District] taxes by certain individuals to the building’s residents rather than the CID."

Office of Tax and Revenue Simplified: OTR spokesperson Natalie Wilson told City Desk that the goal is to simplify the payment process—for everyone. "The idea was proposed to streamline our processes and minimize administrative costs, where one bill would be generated and one payment accounted for. All parties would have benefited from this streamlined and simplified process," says Wilson. The administrative costs of billing condo owners twice a year reportedly consume some 9 percent of OTR's annual budget.

What's Next?: Condo associations remain the good guy—for now—meaning the change hasn't taken place. The shift would require new legislation. Members of the condo associations have appealed to Ward 6 Councilmember Tommy Wells.

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