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TOPTA says taxpayers can pay bills under protest

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Editor’s Note: The following information was provided by the Town of Potsdam Taxpayers Association.

Most of us have received our tax levy for our school districts by now. If you feel that paying your school tax is a burden that may cause you injury you should take the following into consideration. Before paying your taxes take the time to write a letter of payment under protest and/or without prejudice.

In the law, the phrase “under protest” is used in written statements that indicate for the record that someone is performing an obligation reluctantly. The nature of the protest must be expressed in a written document. When something is performed under protest, it means that the person performing the obligation may register an objection later.

The phrase “under protest” can be rather imprecise under the law, and legally, the phrase “without prejudice” is more appropriate. When someone does something without prejudice, it is done with the understanding that this person is not giving up any rights or accepting a liability.

However, one area in which the phrase “under protest” may have legal standing is in the tax code. People are required to pay their taxes whether or not they dispute their tax liability. If someone intends to file a dispute for a refund, that person can pay taxes “under protest.” The payment is accepted as voluntary payment of taxes and the protest indicates that the taxpayer intends to pursue additional legal action.

When taxes are paid this way, the payment is sent in full for the tax bill along with a letter outlining the nature of the protest. The tax agency accepts the payment, recording the taxpayer as current, and the taxpayer pursues action to recover funds paid in excess. In some tax codes, if taxes are not paid this way, the taxpayer may not be able to take action to demand a refund. As a result, paying taxes under protest is critical for preserving the right to contest the bill at a later date.

Performing obligations under protest allows people to satisfy an obligation to avoid further legal entanglement while preserving their right to object to the obligation.

Your letter should include the following:

(Name of Collector), School Tax Collector

(Name of School District) Central School

PO Box 123

Somewhere, NY12345

RE: (Name of School District) Central School Tax Bill for Properties owned by (Name(s) of property owners)

This is a formal letter of protest indicating that school taxes for properties 123456 12.003-4-55.6, Bill #: 1234 and 123456 12.003-4-55.67 Bill #5678 are or have been paid without prejudice and with duress due to the severe financial burden placed upon my income thus causing me injury upon making payment.

I reserve my right to contest this and all previous and/or subsequent taxes paid in excess for the above mentioned properties and to recover funds through legal action.

Make two copies of your formal written letter of protest. Submit one to the collecting entity as well as to your Business Officer at your school district.

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