“Battling the DC Office of Tax and Revenue”


“Dear PoPville,

My husband and I now live in Athens, OH, where we’ve been battling the DC Office of Tax and Revenue. After my latest round on the phone, I thought I should share with you a potential problem for many who move into the District:

If you move into the District of Columbia between Jan. 1 and before April 15, make sure you save documentation that proves you did NOT live in DC the previous year. If you don’t do that, you could be fighting with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue, which will do its best to extort money from you. They’ll ruin your credit, put liens against your property.

My husband and I moved to DC in January of 2011. The DC Office of Tax and Revenue says we owe taxes for 2010. We’ve been arguing with them for months! The only evidence they have, which they confirmed with me, is that we filed our 2010 federal income taxes from our then-DC home in April 2011. When I pointed out to the agent that means anyone who moves to DC between Jan. 1 and April 15 will have that problem, she replied, “Yes, you’re right.” What the f—?!?!?
When you ask them how to set the record straight, they ask you to send your previous state’s ID — you know, the same one you must turn in when you get a DC license. Again, what the f–?!?! Or some official tax-acceptable paperwork that proves you weren’t in DC the prior year. I’m now digging through our storage files to prove something we shouldn’t have to.

Oh, and if you have a tax accountant, they’ll just ignore her. Won’t even answer her emails.

Above is a screenshot of the threatening language from the DC Tax Office.”

35 Comment

  • Can’t imagine why you’d bother with the phone. You need to go in person (I’m from Ohio, I know how far it is from Athens–it’s a day’s drive and fairly scenic, each way) and bring any proof of residence you have for 2010 and be able to escalate your request through the office. A hassle, but the only way you’ll resolve something like this.

    BTW, I moved here in a January and had no problem.

    • I wouldn’t speak so fast. They (tax folks generally) are notorious for waiting until the last minute to collect which will therefore give you very little time to fight it. You may get something right before the 3 yrs mark saying you owe money+interest.

    • I read the a as a last Doh! Hopefully, you’ve passed the point of worry already.

  • I can confirm that this is true! I had a similar problem in 2010 when I moved from Maryland to DC halfway through the year– I’m STILL dealing with the aftermath of it. I had my taxes done at HR Block, who calculated the amount I would owe DC based on my <6 months of residency; I sent in a check for that amount, which they said was not enough. Apparently someone at DCTR either ignored or mistakenly noted that I lived in DC all of 2010 instead of just 6 months, and demanded that I pay them more money than I owed. They even intercepted my MD refund to put it toward this imaginary sum.

    Be VERY CAREFUL when you are part-year residents.

  • Can you show your state tax return as proof? or W2s from 2010 which would show your then address?

    That really sucks. I dealt with similar when I bought a condo here and lived here for 1-2 months. I didn’t file, and they came up almost 3 yrs later asking for hundreds of dollars. Thank goodness I had my W2s. i was able to file and be done with them, but my situation seems simple by comparison.

    • We (the couple in the posting) moved to DC from Tennessee, which doesn’t have state income tax. That’s one reason we’re having trouble documenting. Our tax accountant sent them documents: my LLC’s tax return, plus a mortgage interest statement mailed to our Tennessee address in January 2011 as we were moving to DC. But they refuse to acknowledge they received those documents.

      • Did you do certified/registered? Someone below had success getting acknowledgements, at least. I am sorry you’re dealing with this one. When I had my tax situation, I had a very nice woman at OTR helping me out, and I was able to call her a few times and get questions answered, and they were able to tell me they received my stuff, no problem.

        • Our accountant is sending the documents certified. I do hope that will resolve this. But it’s a waste of time and money chasing people like us. They do realize that we paid all taxes on time, filed quarterly payments on time, and so forth. Why would we fight so hard when our record shows we paid them on time for every year we actually did live there? We filed quarterly, too. It’s just common sense — which they lack.

          • Why? Because they do it to a lot of people (see my comment below), and if even 10% of them cough up, they’re still making money. This infuriates me.

      • You need to get your Athens representative involved. Otherwise if OTR does not believe you, or if your case falls through the cracks (very possible), they can garnish your federal returns and send debt collection companies after you.

  • tonyr

    I was in the same situation – moved to DC from VA in Jan. 2011. A few months back I got a letter telling me that I had to prove that I’d paid state taxes somewhere else for 2010. I called the main number and got the name and contact info of my caseworker. She never answered the phone nor returned calls. I sent them a copy of my VA return (I think that you’re supposed to keep copies of your returns for 7? years) and some other property paperwork indicating that I moved in in Jan. 2011 and thought nothing of it. A month or two later I got a bill for $20K for 2010 taxes. I called back with the same lack of response. I called the main number and was told that they never received my stuff. So I sent it again certified/registered. I called (main number) again and they admitted that they’d received something and it was being worked. I asked them to send me an all-clear when it was closed and they said that they would. Still waiting. I never did get to speak with my caseworker despite leaving message after message.

  • I had a similar problem: I was on active duty for four years in DC, which meant I was not a resident of DC, and was not required to file an income tax return with the District, much less pay District income taxes. Years later, I got a notice from a collection company for the first year I was stationed in the District (and later for the second year), stating that I owed back taxes and numerous fees. Additionally, the District had garnished federal income tax returns, etc. (without complying with the federal and District statutes requiring various notices that would have given me the opportunity to prevent my money from being taken). I had to send in an explanation and documentation of my active duty status to the collection company and to OTR numerous times. OTR concluded relatively quickly that I did not owe them any taxes, yet it took six months to get my money back (nearly all of it–inexplicably, the District returned all but $18, and never offered an explanation when that was pointed out; needless to say, they did not pay interest). OTR only returned my money after I started calling what they had done an “illegal exaction,” and threatened to get my council member involved (I stayed in DC after leaving the military). Unfortunately, the only thing that will probably help is to get your representative involved (another friend in the military, who lived in VA but worked at Navy Yard had the same problem, which was only resolved by getting Rep. Moran involved).

  • had a similiar problem. i showed them the HUD form showing the day i closed on my house in VIrginia, along with my DC and VA state returns that showed the sum added up to the total income on my W-2. You could probably use a lease, or a change of address record from your car insurance as well. I never had to talk to anybody. I received the letter in the mail and mailed back that documentation and never heard about it again.

    I will say, that i told my employer when i moved and changed my state of residence, so my W-2s had separate DC and VA income totals (state1 and state2)

  • I think the takeaway here is to file the previous year’s taxes as if you are still living at your old out-of-state address. Even if it’s March and you’re now living in DC, don’t mention DC anywhere on your tax forms.
    You didn’t earn income in DC, so it doesn’t matter.

    • Probably a good idea, and with direct deposit, you won’t have to worry about the post office screwing up the change of address. It shouldn’t be this hard to give deal with OTR.

    • tonyr

      Your W-2 will have your DC address. I don’t know if/how they cross-reference, but that could cause problems with DC, and wherever you came from.

      • If you didn’t change the address before leaving (could get it online, moved after receiving, etc), then it wouldn’t have your DC address.

  • I had a problem, for two consecutive years, wherein the DC tax folks sent me a letter saying I wasn’t a US citizen and that I needed to go to the Social Security Administration to get a letter saying that I was (they were clear that my SS card would NOT be sufficient, I needed this letter). I was born in the US and have never lived elsewhere, plus was a Fed at the time with a top secret clearance and who knows how many background check records, although none of that mattered to them. It was crazy. After about two months of trying to resolve with them, I finally got in touch with Ruth from Jack Evans’ office, who had it handled for me within 3 days. She was great. When it happened again the following year, I didn’t even bother talking to the DC tax folks, and simply emailed Ruth and said “remember me? it happened again!” She once again had it fixed for me within a few days. Something worth considering for anyone facing these types of issues (and thanks again, Ruth!)

    • tonyr

      You can get a SS number/card if you’re not a citizen (e.g. permanenet resident); in fact you have to if you want to work. Also you still have to pay the same taxes if you’re not a citizen regardless (the other kind of taxation without representation), so I don’t know why the DC tax folk care. I know that this didn’t apply in your case, so just fyi.

    • This. Go to jack evans. His staff is great at dealing with otr.

      I empathize wtb OTR. There are some many residents who for some reason don’t treat moving to DC as a serious matter. We see it with the oft mentioned ROSA violations. This is a related problem. Of course it’s egregious how difficult they make the process

  • Jeez! When I read this post I thought, hey! something like this happened to us too! Then I come to the comment section and I can’t believe how many people have had similar problems. My husband got a job in DC in January 2010. When we did our taxes we thought cool, no partial year calculations. When we filed our taxes DC withheld our refund saying we failed to file in 2010. I went to the tax and revenue office with our property tax info from Texas (which is also a no tax state). They took all my information and told me that they would give it to the person who handles this. I was not allowed to speak to this person directly. Then after hearing nothing for 2 weeks, I started calling. Of course, she never answered her phone. It took me weeks of constant calls to every person I could find on the city directory and google to get someone who was willing and able to help me. It was really hard but I finally got our refund. It’s super scary that they can get your refund from another state. Good luck to you. Unfortunately based on my experience I don’t think going in person will help much.

  • Sorry for your situation with the DC Office of Tax and Revenue. It sounds terrible and similar to my experience with OTR during my real property tax appeal. I don’t have advice for you, but I appreciate the heads up in the event I move from DC. I went to Ohio University in Athens and loved it. I hope you are enjoying your time there and quickly resolve this nightmare.

  • What a disaster the DC Office of Tax and Revenue is. I once had an issue with a tax payment, and called to ask them what to do about it. They said: wait until date XYZ, at which point you will receive a notice; respond to that notice with your payment. So I waited. Then I got a notice: your payment is late, and as a result, you owe penalties and interest. The notices started coming with terrifying regularity, and the amount I owed nearly tripled as I tried to work the problem out over the phone. Finally, I went to the office in-person to fix the problem. I explained: I did exactly as your office told me to do over the phone; as a result, I want to pay you the original amount I owed you and nothing else. Their response: we’d never tell you to do that. My response seemed to flummox them: why on earth would I behave in a way that would TRIPLE the amount I owed, why wouldn’t I just pay at the very first moment? So their response was to try to wave some but not all of the interest and penalties. Their logic? “Well, you have to pay SOMETHING extra.” I said no, and I think the lady was tired of having me in her office arguing, so without speaking she just printed up a new invoice for the original amount, which I paid, and left, hopefully never to return.

    TL;DR they’ll eventually back down if you inconvenience them, but that probably means doing it in-person.

  • Now I’m worried, because I lived at home with my parents until December 2013, where I got a job in DC and moved late in the month. I didn’t change my income tax state to DC until January 2014 because well, I had shingles for all of December and didn’t really put it as a priority. Since that makes it appear like I ‘moved’ to DC in January 2014, is it likely the OTR is going to ask why I didn’t file in DC in 2013?

    On the other hand, I made a negligible amount of money that year and I was also claimed as a dependent, so who knows.

  • Ugh. As someone that moved into DC in March 2014 and then filed my MD taxes for 2013 with my new address, not looking forward to this potential headache. Just cleaned out my desk drawer and found my MD ID, wife still has hers, and we have tax returns and W2s from prior years, so hopefully we have what we need.

  • Word of warning: You cannot use the D40-EZ return if you are a part-year resident of the District. Some tax preparers use the “EZ” form and simply divide by the number of months you live in the District and use that as your income for the year. The long-form D40 return requires you to include your total annual income and then DEDUCT the amount for the time you were not a DC resident on a separate line.

  • They did this to me too: a DC Tax Bureau-sanctioned collection agency sent me a similar-looking bill for $1,800 that I didn’t owe (not for residency, a different reason). My tax guy called his contact at the Bureau, and the person said, yeah, this was issued in error, just ignore it, and sent an email to that effect for our records. My tax guy said this happens a LOT in this city–their contractors issue bills that are baseless (and which create phantom budget surpluses for the city, but I digress); he’d seen the same thing happen to eight other clients just that year. This REALLY ticks me off because anyone who can’t afford a tax person might get worried and pay something they don’t owe. It’s fraud, flat and simple, but I don’t know how to make a stink of it, and I’m not sure my tax guy would want to make an enemy of the city he makes his living with. So I don’t know your tax person, but if they don’t have a direct line to the city tax bureau, you may need to switch up. Good luck.

  • I dealt with this exact problem in 2010. It took 3 trips to the DC office to get them off my back and I also received threatening letters like the one above. It was a terrible and completely unnecessary experience.

  • OTR is a joke. I called and went in person and got nowhere. After much frustration, I learned about their Twitter page. Within hours of posting on Twitter my Councilman had replied and shortly after OTR posted the phone number for a dispute resolution office. One call to them got my problem solved in one day! I was very impressed. The people on the phone and in the walk-in office clearly have no training or expertise on tax law. The dispute resolution people though were awesome.

    • And I found the exact same thing happened with the DC DPW. Complaint tweets seem to work very well with DC govt offices.

  • I had the same problem – I had my employer verify that I started employment in the new year and they said it was fine.

  • I thought I was the only one!! Moved here from Massachusetts in 2008 and did not have any DC income until 2009. Filed my 2008 taxes from my new address in DC since, you know, I lived there. Fast forward three years and my refund was withheld because of this discrepancy. I never got the same answer from anyone I talked to at OTR, except for one thing: none of them could explain why it was taking so long since they had all my documentation and it was a relatively straightforward case (i.e., no DC income mixed in or MA income received while a DC resident). It took MONTHS of letters, documentation, and phone calls to get it resolved. I’m convinced they were just scouring my info to find something they could nail me on to keep part of my refund. What a disaster!

  • They did this to me too. I thought the process was fairly easy. I called them up and they told me I needed to send in copies of tax documents filed in the other state I lived. I scanned them and emailed the documents to the person in charge of my case and within a day my case was dismissed. This is why you’re supposed to keep your tax documents on file.

  • This happened to me as well. I called on the phone and sent my 2010 tax returns from my state of residence that year and they SAY the case is closed. I’ve only received one threatening letter since.

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