(WSVN) – When you get a bill you pay it. But if you don’t get a bill, can you be fined for not paying the bill you didn’t get? Sounds strange, but when it happened to some South Florida business people, they put in a call to Help Me Howard with Patrick Fraser.
South Florida’s waters are filled with boats.
Little boats and big boats. Then there are yachts and really big yachts.
David Wiest: “This is the Odessa. Yes, we sold it a couple of years ago. 160 foot. It has six staterooms.”
David Wiest is a yacht broker. A nice way to make a living, especially when you get to meet the people who can pay $20 million for a vessel like this.
David Wiest: “They are all super intelligent. They all have great stories on how they got to where they are and that’s probably one of the best parts of our business.”
To be a broker, David has to have a license from the City of Fort Lauderdale, and that created his problem.
David Wiest: “They never sent any invoices or notices of the tax due out since 2020.”
The business tax is only $52.50.
After no bill for three years, in January, the city sent out the renewal notices.
David Wiest: “We will pay the three years that were delinquent, its $52.50 times three years, it’s $157.50.”
And then there is the but.
David Wiest: “The but is the penalties that they are charging.”
The city is charging David and two other brokers in his office delinquent fees of around $271 each for not paying for their license for the past three years, even though they didn’t get a renewal notice from the city for the past three years.
David Wiest: “If i don’t get an electric bill at the end of the month, chances are I wont pay it ’cause I don’t have a bill.”
The city’s own website does say they will notify you when the bill is due.
David Wiest: “It says a renewal notice will be sent annually.”
When David contacted Fort Lauderdale, a city official wrote ‘We are not responsible nor required by state law to send the notices out’, adding David had to pay the $271 penalty.
David Wiest: “I think it’s wrong. We are all happy to pay our tax. What we are not happy to do is pay for an oversight in the billing and then pay penalties and so forth.”
Do you have to pay delinquent fees for not paying a bill you did not get? Confused yet, Howard?
Howard Finkelstein, 7News legal expert: “No and no you don’t not have to pay the delinquent fee. Under Florida and the city’s own law, they do not have to send a renewal notice but do have to notify the taxpayer if they are going to charge a penalty. David says he never got that notice and therefore the delinquent fee should be wiped out.”
I contacted Fort Lauderdale and they were very helpful.
Their spokesperson, Arelene Borenstein, told me they did wipe out the delinquent fees for David’s two co-workers because when the city switched from mail to email notices, they did not have email address for those two brokers.
But David’s penalty fees remained because they sent renewal emails to his office manager.
David said they checked their computers and did not receive the emails.
After we told Fort Lauderdale, they looked at David’s case again and wrote: “The outcome of the review was inconclusive. We removed the fee due to our interest in providing Mr. Wiest with a positive outcome.”
David Wiest: “I’m glad we got it wiped out and I’m glad that I called you and Help Me Howard.”
David got what he wanted and when he told us it wasn’t about the money, he meant it.
David Wiest: “No, not about the money. Just principle. Because why pay a tax that’s shouldn’t be, you know, paid in the first place?”
Glad it worked out David! And there’s nothing wrong with the government using email addresses to bill people. But they have to make sure they have the right email address or the person even has an email address.
In David’s case, they now have his correct address.
Feel like your ship has sailed? Tired of feeling sunk? Dock with us and hopefully we will have you cruising along.
With this Help Me Howard, I’m Patrick Fraser, 7News.
CONTACT HELP ME HOWARD:
Reporter: Patrick Fraser at firstname.lastname@example.org
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