Hundreds of James City Co. business owners charged late fees

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JAMES CITY COUNTY, Va. (WAVY) —  Business owners are asking the James City County treasurer to waive late fees after they claim they did not receive their business license tax invoices in the mail, officials say.

JCC Treasurer Jennifer D. Tomes tells 10 On Your Side she has no authority to waive the late fees — even if the paper bills got lost in the mail.

Assistant Treasurer Cheryl Cochet said that the county cannot determine how many business owners did not receive paper bills, but all of the requests for late fee waivers stem from a batch of 448 invoices mailed out on March 7.

Tomes contacted the United States Postal Service to find out what may have happened to the undelivered invoices, but the investigation didn’t reveal any issues with mail delivery.

“I contacted the local post office and the Postmaster informed me that they are not aware of any issues with your invoices,” USPS Consumer Affairs Representative Jackie Lewis wrote in a May 30 email to Tomes.

In a June 26 presentation to the JCC Board of Supervisors, Tomes said that of the mailed invoices, only 69 business owners paid their taxes by the April 5 deadline. Nearly 300 business owners paid their taxes late — incurring a 10 percent late fee — and 79 invoices were still outstanding at that time.

At that presentation, Tomes said that the Treasurer’s Association’s lawyer and JCC Attorney Adam Kinsman agreed that the treasurer did not have the authority to waive the late fees.

Cochet added that a paper bill isn’t the only notification to business owners that their taxes are due on April 5. They are informed in writing when they renew their business licenses, and the due date has been written into county ordinance since 2001.

“Nothing further could be done,” said Cochet.

At the BOS presentation, Tomes also referred to an Attorney General opinion issued on the subject of taxpayers not receiving an invoice.

“The taxpayer knew he owned the property and had not received a tax bill on the same,” the opinion reads. “He knew it was taxable and the duty was on him to investigate the amount of the tax and pay the same.”

Tomes told the BOS that the county could prevent the situation from happening again if they change county ordinance to set one due date for business license renewal and tax payments.

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