8News Investigates: Richmond’s Tax Amnesty Program touted as a success

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The City of Richmond’s Tax Amnesty Program netted nearly $2.8 million in signed commitments.

An 8News investigation this past summer uncovered more than 8,500 tax delinquent properties across the city. 300 of the properties were tax delinquent for two decades or more and their property owners were getting away with it.

However, with the Tax Amnesty program, Richmond property owners lined up to pay.

“I am going to pay my taxes,” said Jonathan Walker, who stood in that line.

The two-month program allowed tax delinquents an opportunity to start paying back the real estate taxes owed without paying penalties and interest fees.

Walker said he was not going to miss out.

“The City is offering a way for customers to save money, and I am going to take advantage of that,” he said.

Many in line, like Richard Fuller, told 8News they weren’t trying to buck the system, but they faced financial struggles. Fuller inherited his grandfather’s Fulton Hill home while trying to pay his own mortgage.

“It fell on my shoulders to try and keep it going,” Fuller said. It’s family property and I said, let me see if I can keep going to fix it up.”

He didn’t want to let the family home go.

“Yeah, that’s very special to me. I spent time in here as I was a young lad. And grandfather was very special to us. That’s my little part,” he said.

The tax amnesty program is giving Fuller a chance to catch up.

“When I heard about the tax amnesty program it was perfect for me,” he said.

It’s allowing Fuller to make needed repairs to the home and start paying back the taxes without the fees.

“We have a new back porch. Then we have some brickwork here,” he points out.

It’s not only a win for Fuller but for the neighborhood.

“Those improvements are going to bring it back to life,” Fuller said about the home.

Mayor Levar Stoney said the grace period was an overwhelming success.

“Hey, I am elated that we were able to surpass our goal of  $2.4 million collected under the tax amnesty program,” Stoney said.

Tax delinquents cost the City big bucks, money that could be used for schools, police and fire. Currently, the City is still owed $28.3 million in real estate taxes.

Tax Amnesty is just one step in the Stoney administration’s on-going effort to clear Richmond’s backlog of tax-delinquent properties.

In August, the City successfully auctioned off dozens of delinquent and blighted properties.

We checked back and since that sale, the city has already made progress. The overgrown grass at a Southside home that was auctioned off has been trimmed by the new owners.

Another auction is set for November. 53 properties are on the auction block. You can view the properties here:

As for those who didn’t take advantage of the tax amnesty, the Mayor says it’s enforcement time.

“Your time is up, we expect you to pay your taxes,” Stoney said.

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