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Many taxpayers missing out on big L.A. County property tax refund

June 1, 2010 | 12:13 pm

The clock is ticking for L.A. homeowners to receive money they might not know they are owed.

At issue is a $45-million class-action settlement for Los Angeles County property owners who failed to receive the correct interest payment when they were refunded overpaid property taxes.

The refunds vary widely. The largest single refund claim is $915,000, which is to be refunded to an oil company, and the smallest is 1 cent, said Rob Pool, a lawyer representing the taxpayers. More than 63,000 notices were mailed out, and the average award amount is about $641.

Those eligible must mail a claim form and have it postmarked no later than Aug. 17, according to terms of the settlement. The claim form can be accessed on this website. 

The settlement resolves a nearly 12-year-old lawsuit that alleged that the county systematically shortchanged property tax payers when refunding over-payments.

Anyone who received a property tax refund from Los Angeles County after March 1, 1993, might be eligible.

Los Angeles County has mailed out notices to affected property owners, but about 60% came back because the addresses were no longer valid.

Pool said that on average, "Homeowners move every seven years. The claim administrator is relying on the county's mailing records. There is a large percentage of properties that have changed hands."

A list of parcel numbers eligible for the refund can be viewed on the claim administrator's website.

Property owners can also call (877) 740-6999 to inquire. In addition, property owners can look up parcel numbers with the county assessor's office.

Typically, property owners would only get a refund if the amount was mistakenly overpaid or if the property's assessed value was reduced after payment.

Institutions that received large refunds in the past and own multiple parcels were expected to be the biggest recipients. The city of Los Angeles is owed about $2.2 million; the University of California, $150,000; and USC, $160,000. Some homeowners are to receive more than $1,000.

-- Rong-Gong Lin II