The authorities are always very quick to demand payment of taxes, but are very slow to give refunds when people have paid too much. The provincial tax collection office, which handles the payments by residents in 98 of the 103 municipalities in Malaga province, currently has a backlog of more than 5,000 overpayments and on average people are having to wait more than a year for their money. In some cases, the delay can be two or even three years.
Because the amounts which have been overpaid are variable, it is impossible to know exactly how much the town halls owe their taxpayers at present. Figures for 2016 show that the wrong amounts were paid for 8,069 bills, and a total of 3.9 million euros were refunded. Last year, 6,127 wrong payments were made and the same amount, 3.9 million euros, was refunded. Nor is it possible to know exactly how many people are affected by this problem, as some taxpayers could be waiting for several refunds.
Sources at the tax collection office say the delay in repayment is due to several factors, including internal restructuring and changes to the auditing system.
In addition, the existing IT system is “obsolete” and is also in the process of being changed, and there have been changes to some senior staff positions.
According to the sources, serious efforts are now being made to facilitate the process, so that money which has been wrongly collected is always refunded within six months in the future.
The delays are not only frustrating for taxpayers, but are financially damaging to the authorities because, by law, interest has to be paid on late repayments. Last year 111,371 euros had to be paid out in interest.
The money which is overpaid is often due to changes in the rateable value of properties, incorrect self-assessment, discounts authorised by town halls, tax exemptions or duplicated payments, among other causes.