For those of you who didn’t read my article titled The Dangers of Paying Your Property Taxes Online, here’s a rundown to get you up to speed:
Linda and I have a condo located inside the municipality of Tulum, Mexico. Each year, the city offers a discount to people who pay their property taxes early.
Being a couple of thrifty retirees, we took advantage of the deal and paid via the city’s online pay system. The system issued us a receipt complete with a tracking number. We printed it and filed it away.
Last week, one of our neighbors sent out an email warning people about paying their property taxes online. He said that the municipality doesn’t always update the system, so it’s better to do it in person.
I stopped by the Palacio Municipal to confirm that they received my payment and pick up some sort of written confirmation. That’s when I discovered that although they had received the payment on time, they never manually marked the account as paid.
The clerk said that since the discount was no longer offered, the system showed that I owed the difference between the discount and the full amount. She gave me two options: 1) pay the difference, or 2) file a written appeal to the director.
I chose option #2 and submitted a handwritten appeal in Spanish. They provided me with this template: carta de apelación.
Today, I went down to the Palacio Municipal and the clerk said that my appeal had been granted. I signed a couple of papers and she gave me a stamped receipt showing that my 2018 property taxes were paid in full.
What Went Wrong?
Although I was happy to have the matter resolved, I still wasn’t sure what went wrong. I decided to ask her a few more questions about the online pay system and the correct procedure to follow in the future.
Her responses revealed several flaws in their system.
Although people can pay their property taxes via the online portal and receive an electronic receipt, the system does not automatically mark the account as paid. A person still has to go into the account and manually do that. The problem is that the system is not set up to notify the clerks whenever a payment is made.
Here’s the kicker: If the clerk does not mark the account paid in time, the system automatically removes the discount and the clerk doesn’t have the authority to override it — hence the need for the written appeal.
I asked her what people who pay online should do to prevent this from happening and she gave me two options:
1) Bring the proof of online payment to the Palacio Municipal and get a stamped receipt, or
2) Send it via email to email@example.com.
The most important thing is to do this before the discount expires.
I pointed out that nowhere on their website does it say any of this. She smiled and said, “I know.”
I asked her what would have happened if I had never stopped by the Palacio Municipal to check on this matter. She said that the outstanding balance would have been added to my 2019 property taxes.
At this point, I thanked her for her assistance and headed out the door confident in the knowledge that I would be paying my taxes in person next December.
Let’s Wrap This Up
This situation annoyed and frustrated me, but in the grand scheme of things, it really wasn’t that big of a deal.
In the end, everything worked out fine and I learned a valuable lesson about relying solely on technology to get things done in Mexico.