INDIANAPOLIS—On Wednesday, Senate Bill (SB) 275 passed out of the House Ways and Means Committee with a vote 18-4. The proposal, authored by Assistant Democratic Leader Eddie Melton (D-Gary), would create a tax amnesty program for participating counties, waiving the penalty and interest of delinquent taxes.

“SB 275 is important legislation that stands to address blight and spur economic development in my community and in our entire state. The tax amnesty program allowed under my proposal benefits both the property owners who hold delinquent taxes, as well as the municipalities who are seeking the back-taxes that they are owed,” Sen. Melton said. “Right now, the amount of interest and penalty fees that have collected on some of these delinquent taxes have exceeded the amount originally owed. For example, the fees on the $101M in delinquent taxes owed in Lake County is over $125M—that means the accrued interest and penalties is nearly $25M more than the initial amount in delinquent taxes.

“Obviously, that has a negative impact on property owners, making it more difficult for them to pay their back taxes—especially now when so many people have taken a financial hit due to COVID-19. My legislation would create an opportunity for individuals to bypass paying those additional fees. This allows property owners to actually start paying down those owed taxes, and allows municipalities to direct the funds they’ve received back into the community and also get some of these properties back on the tax-roll.”

In committee, SB 275 was amended to include certain provisions from SB 307, including the requirement that the true tax value of certain commercial real property used for retail purposes be determined by the cost approach for the first 10 years of occupancy of the property, less normal depreciation and obsolescence guidelines under current law. It was also amended to add legal fees to the list of costs a county assessor incurs when defending an infrequent or uncommon appeal under current law.

“I support the language from SB 307 that was amended into SB 275 today. It will be especially beneficial to areas like Hobart and Merrillville that host a large number of big box stores. It’s important that all parcels, including large, commercial retail properties, are assessed fairly so that local units and taxpayers receive the appropriate amount of revenue to fund public services. These amendments help achieve that goal.”