Disabled Vet Has Car Stolen, Still Told to Pay Taxes On It

PHOTO: The attack submarine USS Virginia (SSN 774) departs Naval Submarine Base New London to begin her first scheduled full-length deployment, October 2009.

Dear ABC News Fixer: I am a disabled Navy Veteran who was stationed in Groton, Conn., from 2005 to 2010. During my time there, I purchased a 2003 Ford Focus, and I took it with me when I left Connecticut after I was discharged from the Navy in August 2010.

I moved to North Dakota, and a few months later, my car was heavily damaged by a deep pothole, which destroyed the transmission and much of the undercarriage. It was no longer drivable. What was left of the car was stolen in 2012.

After that, I moved back home to Georgia. Recently, I received a letter from a collection agency that claims I owe the Town of Groton $224.76 for vehicle taxes for 2011 and 2012, all on a car that was rendered un-drivable in 2010.

These charges -- for a vehicle that is no more -- are ridiculous. The Town of Groton will not discuss the matter, instead referring me to their collections agency.

- JAMES THOMPSON, Bowdon, Ga.

Dear James:

We can certainly see why you wouldn’t want to pay vehicle taxes on a car that couldn’t even make it down the road … especially if that road was in North Dakota, somewhere between Fargo and Bismarck.

You told the ABC News Fixer you tried to explain all this to the collections agency, but that the agent said you’d need to give them your military discharge info and Social Security number, which you were reluctant to offer up. So we contacted the Town of Groton to see what else could be done to straighten this out.

Town Finance Director Salvatore Pandolpho said you only needed your proof of discharge and didn’t need to provide the Social Security number. You submitted this, and after a couple weeks the town waived all the charges and took you off its list. Pandolpho told us this will not affect your credit report, since the town does not authorize the collection agency to report this type of debt.

It turns you’re not the only military person to get tagged with taxes they don’t owe – with about 7,500 active duty personnel at the nearby Naval Submarine Base New London, even Pandolpho said there are “many” such cases on the books. But the town does have a way to avoid it. Military personnel who maintain a home state other than Connecticut can submit a “non-resident affidavit” when they arrive in Groton to be placed on the “exempt” list. When they move away from Connecticut, they need to cancel their Connecticut registration to avoid future taxes; for info, CLICK HERE. More details can be found HERE.

According to the town’s records, you did fill out an exemption but it expired when your service dates ended – and since the Connecticut DMV didn’t have a cancelation on file at that time, the Town of Groton thought you still had a car there and started billing you accordingly.

Pandolpho said they’ve tried to get the word out, but there are still sailors who don’t know about the exemption and all the steps required to claim it.

- The ABC News Fixer

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