Town Trying to Expedite Tax Refunds for Webster Bank Errors

It’s been only a little over two weeks, but it seems like the Town of Wilton is about to start clearing up some of the tax errors that happened at Webster Bank, the lockbox bank used by the town to process tax payments.

Thursday afternoon, Oct. 7, the Board of Selectmen (BOS) members are holding a special meeting that was pulled together quickly by First Selectwoman Lynne Vanderslice. She’s seeking authorization from the BOS that will allow her to approve tax refunds as quickly as possible for the first group of impacted taxpayers.

In mid-September, several Wilton taxpayers reported receiving delinquency notices from the town’s tax collector even though they insisted they had paid their tax bills on time.

Wilton officials launched an investigation, which revealed multiple errors in the bank’s processing of some Wilton residents’ payments — something other municipalities using the same bank have also experienced.

Property taxes are due twice a year, on July 1 and Jan. 1 annually. Taxpayers have a 30-day grace period before incurring interest at a rate of 18% per year. For the July 1 payment, the last day to postmark a payment sent by mail is Aug. 2.

While it’s not unusual for the town to experience some delinquencies, this year there was a much higher than usual number of delinquent taxpayers, as well as a higher number of people reporting they received delinquency notices despite paying their tax bills on time — even presenting proof from the post office or their own banks.

Some residents who had been impacted worried that their tax payment checks had been lost and stopped payment on them, incurring fees. Several sent replacement checks.

Vanderslice promised the town would “make whole” any residents who it was determined had paid on time. She told residents that tax department employees were working to document each outstanding account but had to follow very strict state statutes carefully in the process.

Part of that process is what will happen on Thursday night with the Board of Selectmen.

“CT statutes require the tax collector present tax refunds to the BOS for approval,” Vanderslice told GMW. “We don’t want to hold up the issuance of tax refunds by waiting for the next regularly scheduled BOS meeting, so I am asking the BOS to delegate that approval to me.”

So far the town has completed documenting what happened for about 40 taxpayers. Vanderslice said the town sent letters notifying them of how each case would be resolved.

Some will be entitled to a tax refund or credit (their choice) for a duplicate payment; some will receive a refund or credit for interest paid (again their choice), and/or a refund of stop payment fees and other fees.

Webster Bank notified town personnel that there are an additional 57 payments previously unaccounted for, for a total of 97 ‘found’ payments. Vanderslice said tax department employees are continuing to work on rectifying the situation in all cases, and anticipate more error reports from the bank.

“We appreciate the continued patience of the impacted residents. We are committed to full transparency and making impacted residents whole. Town employees are working this weekend and will continue to keep resolution of these issues a primary focus,” Vanderslice said, adding, “We are keeping the pressure on Webster Bank to ensure they also make resolution a priority.”