City Accountants Are Trying to Clean Up Their Books So Now San Francisco Is Sending People 30-Year-Old Tax Bills

In an effort to resolve tens of thousands of outstanding tax bills, some dating back to 1993, the city of San Francisco has recently sent out a round of notices to people who owe some long-overdue taxes — and some of these bills may seem ridiculous .

Somebody’s got a bee in their bonnet over at the City Controller’s Office, or the Treasurer & Tax Collector’s Office, because some bills are showing up in people’s mailboxes that they probably thought were long forgotten/forgiven.

One of those was a $450 bill for a tax on unsecured property — originally $36 but now with 28 years of late fees and penalties tacked on — from 1993 that was received by a former San Francisco dentist, Mike Lano.

Lano took his story to NBC Bay Area and they bit, saying that this is “the most ridiculous thing that’s ever happened” to him.

Lano now lives in Southern California, and for all San Francisco knew he could have been long dead. But they tracked him down and sent him an invoice, which he says is the first one he’s received in 28 years. Lano also says that the bill is a mistake, and that he paid that unsecured property tax — a tax on the equipment in his former dental office near Sutter and Stockton streets — in person back in 1993.

Someone at City Hall tells NBC Bay Area that the bill they sent Lano is one of many, and that the city is currently trying to clean up its books and clear 47,753 unpaid tax accounts. Allegedly, the city currently owes $146 million in outstanding and delinquent taxes.

As for the records of what notices they may have sent out over the years, the city doesn’t necessarily have those. “We have millions of debts we are collecting over decades. So it’s not feasible / practical to maintain copies of everything sent,” said the Treasurer’s Office in a statement to NBC.

One CPA the station spoke to suggests it’s up to the taxpayer to keep any and all records that they’ve paid these bills, for situations like these.

But it sounds like Lano only has to wait this out another year and that bill may just go away — the city has a 30-year statute of limitations on tax bills, so that’s one reason why bills from 1993 just went out.

Photo by Jack Sloop

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