CHARLESTON, W.Va. — The West Virginia Tax Division appears to be in a time crunch to fix the miscalculations of natural gas property tax revenues for eight counties.

To address millions of tax dollars that were unaccounted for due to a clerical error from the State Tax Office, representatives have been in contact with commissioners from the counties to discuss the process for receiving funds entitled to them. Hearings have been hosted with commissioners from Brooke, Tyler, Harrison, and Monongalia counties, with more meetings scheduled for Doddridge, Marshall, Plesants, and Wetzel county representatives later in February. This is in order to meet a March deadline to appeal the old calculations and keep them from becoming permanent.

“They are, right now, going around to the county commissions, they’ve been holding meetings, they had a few last week, a few this weeks, I think they’ll have a couple next week as well,” said Odgen Newspaper Reporter Steven Allen Adams on WAJR’s Talk of the Town. “Working with the counties trying to get these corrected valuations,” he said.

According to multiple reports later confirmed by the State Tax Office, miscalculations on a state level resulted in Tyler County being undervalued in tax revenues by approximately $15.8 million. Monongalia County was undervalued at $1.6 million, along with Wetzel County. Marshall County took a $5.3 million hit, Brooke County $4.4 million, while Doddridge County, Harrison County, and Pleasants County all had revenues of $1 million or less. While appeals to move forward on collecting those dollars (appeal for Relief from Erroneous Assessment) have been made by commissioners of those counties, any taxpayer affected by the error must make an appeal before the beginning of March, which is complicated by a delay in sending updated tax calculations.

“There’s another issue where there’s a year window where, if you found that you made a mistake in these assessments, where you can go correct it and get that right information to taxpayers,” said Adams. “We’re right up against that deadline now,” he said.

Aside from the obvious financial implications for the counties affected by the error, Adams reports that the West Virginia Tax Division could face more legal ramifications if the funds for eight counties aren’t accounted for by the March deadline. Due to a combination of the delayed notice to counties affected (the State Tax Office was made aware of the mistake in March 2023, counties weren’t notified until September 2023), the lack of updated numbers to taxpayers (according to Wetzel County commissioners), and the drawn out appeals process, some counties have considered filing lawsuits. With those decisions still pending, a complete correction for the counties could play a large role in further scrutiny of the State Tax Office.

“There’s a real possibility that there may be a lawsuit being considered against the Tax Division for how this was handled,” said Adams. “Because there’s a question as to whether this was a clerical error, or negligence on the part of the Tax Division,” he said.

As of February 19, the Monongalia County Commission’s application for Relief from Erroneous Assessment has been accepted by the West Virginia Tax Division, Tyler County’s application was rejected and Brooke and Harrison County’s appeals are still pending. On a legislative level, House Bill 4850 and Senate Bill 395 are being recommended for passage, both would eliminate the sunset provision of the natural gas property tax calculations (a major catalyst for the errors under appeals). In the meantime, the State Tax Office is working with county commissioners to prevent a major mistake from becoming disastrous.

“In eight natural gas-producing counties, you’re talking about millions of dollars, in Tyler County’s case, it’s $15.8 million,” said Adams. “(Funds) that they didn’t get in tax collections because the Tax Division gave out the wrong information,” he said.