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City Council seeks greater authority to make property tax compromises

Rick Days – HONOLULU (HawaiiNewsNow) – Spurred by a controversy over property tax assessments, the Honolulu City Council is trying to get more power to make tax compromises.

The council unanimously advanced a bill Thursday that would allow the council to cut deals with taxpayers who feel they’re being treated unfairly.

This, after some condo owners saw their property taxes skyrocket.

“I’m comfortable with the person paying an administrative fee or being assessed some type of penalty, but to have your assessed taxes almost doubled because someone missed a deadline to me is absolutely Draconian,” said Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who introduced the measure.

The city’s tax department has refused to compromise, saying it shouldn’t be making exceptions for individual taxpayers.

“There’s probably 2,000 or more taxpayers that either didn’t respond or missed the deadline or some reason or another It would be unfair to just compromise for one taxpayer,” said Gary Kurokawa, deputy director of the city Department of Budget and Fiscal Services,

Earlier this week, Punchbowl resident Karen Okazaki told Hawaii News Now that the city incorrectly classified her long-time rental as a resort unit, which quadrupled her taxes. The higher tax rate forced her to sell.

“We got very surprised — shocked actually — when our tax bill went up to $4,000 a year versus about $700 a year. That was a big pill to swallow,” she said.

Okazaki was one of 4,000 apartment owners in mixed-used buildings that were sent questionnaires last year, asking if their units were being used for residential or commercial purposes.

About half of the 4,000 owners didn’t respond to the audit, but Okazaki said she did provide a declaration that her unit was a long-term rental. The city rejected that.

The tax compromise bill next goes back to committee before heading full council.

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