Have you ever found a $5 bill in your wallet or a pair of jeans? If so, you know how great it feels to suddenly find money that you didn’t even realize that you had, especially when you’re strapped for cash. So, imagine what it is like for a county, in these tough economic times, to find over a million in new revenue simply by identifying money that is owed by taxpayers committing homestead exemption fraud; that’s the case in today’s “Fraud of the Day” from GovTech.com.
The article reports that Delaware County, Indiana leveraged “a fraud solution that combines analytics technology and investigative research” to “uncover $1.5 million in lost property tax revenue.” The solution, called the Homestead Exemption Fraud Detection program, was managed by two vendors and “pinpointed homeowners in the county who shouldn’t have claimed a homestead exemption benefit on their property taxes.” One vendor reviewed a batch of property owner data and compared it against public records databases using data analytics technology and identified key indicators for fraud. The other vendor then worked with the county auditor’s office to investigate the findings and prioritize accounts to pursue for collection.
Indiana has gone back and reviewed records for the past three years and has assessed a 10 percent penalty on the total owed. (Let’s get those back taxes and rehire some teachers and police!) The number of fraudulent properties identified is “close to 1,000” and billing notices have already been sent for nearly $264,000. The article pointed out that leveraging the vendors involved made sense: “the county didn’t have the technology or capability to do in-depth fraud research, so making the investment to have access to a national database for more data was a no-brainer.”
By detecting homestead exemption fraud, Delaware County has added new revenue to its coffers for this year and years to come. But is a Homestead Exemption Fraud Detection program worth it? Delaware County’s clerk of corrections seemed to think so, noting: “’It’s well worth it. This is money we didn’t have to begin with.’” (Got to love people that just get it done!)