Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Middletown Tax Assessor on a Fishing Expedition


Update: Well, it looks like Sherlock Braasch figured out my name and address; there was a tax form in Monday's mail!


This from my attorney:

The City can only tax your personal computer if you derive income from same.  Your computer used to personally communicate by blog to other persons is not a commercial venture unless you sell ads, or solicit funds for the INSIDER's operations.  The City cannot tax your pen and paper no matter how many letters you send to your friends, the general public or the Hartford Courant unless they're used in commercial transactions, raising revenue, selling things, etc.   If the Insider is raising revenue then it's methods of blogging are subject to taxation as commercial property.  Personally, If it were me being attacked for non-commercial speech in this manner,  I would put all of Braasch's tripe in one of your blogs and let the Insider readers get a sense of how he is attempting to limit your 1st amendment rights.

Original post begins, here:

Middletown's financial situation must be in dire straits. Our tax assessor, Damon Braasch seems to be desperate to expand the tax base. He is now going after local bloggers who are not even business entities!

In addition to sending the Middletown Insider a request for a declaration of personal property, which was addressed to "To whom it may concern", he has also sent such a request to the Middletown Eye and the Middletown Patch!

I have to wonder, if he has known about the Insider "for a while" as he claims, then why is he just now getting around to asking for a property declaration? The Insider is not a business entity and generates no income or revenue. It is not incorporated, not a DBA, has no bank account and no physical location. So why is he asking in the first place; and why is it up to me to prove it? Doesn't burden of proof lie on the state, or in this case the city?

You might find this amusing, he didn't even know my name. I had some fun with him!

I'm dropping it, for now, but this is the last response from Damon. This email contains the entire thread of the exchange between us.

I will not comply.

Editor

(best read in chronological order, from the bottom, up.)
__________________________________________________________________________
From: Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov>
Date: Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 12:07 PM
Subject: RE: Declaration of personal property
To: Middletown Insider <middletowninsider@gmail.com>


Unfortunate, but that is your choice.  I have already stated that there is a possibility that the Insider has nothing to declare.  However we would simply ask that that be explained and reported.  Please feel free to contact your attorney, as I am confident that this office requesting a declaration as required by law is not a matter in which the City can be sued over.  Perhaps your attorney can review the pertinent statutes that I have already referenced regarding failure to file and advise you accordingly.  Further, if you are uncomfortable with submitting anything to this office regarding the operation of the Insider, please have your attorney do so.

Kindest regards,
Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown
_____________________________________________________________________________________
From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2016 11:32 AM

To: Braasch, Damon
Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

I'm afraid I can't help but to think there is a political motivation or a personal vendetta behind this, the latter more likely than the former.  Therefore, how and when you came upon the Insider is more than just a matter of curiosity.

While it is flattering to be compared to the Middletown Press and the Courant, the Insider is not a business entity.  And for all you know, I'm using a computer at a library or a senior center.
Therefore, I will not comply with your request for a declaration of property.  I will, however consider contacting my attorney for the purpose of filing a law suit against you and the city.
__________________________________________________________________
On Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 11:18 AM, Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov> wrote:

Forgive me, but as I had stated the date I became aware does not have any bearing upon your filing a declaration.   It may satisfy your curiosity but that is all. 
I had already stated that this office sent out or contacted other outlets requesting a declaration, specifically the Middletown Eye and the Middletown Patch.  As a matter of consistency contact was also made to the Middletown Insider.  There are no conspiracies or nefarious motives.  Just a matter of equal treatment.

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown
_____________________________________________________________________________________
From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2016 11:05 AM

To: Braasch, Damon
Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

I disagree; I'm finding this line of questioning to be very productive.  I think how and when you discovered the Insider is very relevant to your request for a declaration.  I don't need an exact date; a month ago, a year ago, will suffice.  But, if it is as you say, "it has been a while", I'm curious to know why you are just now getting around to this.
__________________________________________________________________
On Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 10:56 AM, Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov> wrote:

I am sorry, but this line of questioning is unproductive.  How and when I became aware of the Insider has no bearing on the filing of a declaration.  I could not offer a date in any case as I did not make note of it.  Suffice to say it has been a while.
Again, if you would like I would be happy to meet and review the entire process, assist in the preparation of the declaration, and answer any questions.

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown
_____________________________________________________________________________________
From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2016 10:33 AM
To: Braasch, Damon; 

Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

The Middletown Insider has been in existence for 4 1/2 yrs.  How and when did you become aware of it?
__________________________________________________________________
On Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 10:29 AM, Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov> wrote:

I am personally aware of the Insider, and as such I made the decision to send the declaration.

Newspapers engage in free speech, and also declare personal property.  Personal property taxes are paid to Middletown by the Hartford Current and the Journal Register (Middletown Press) annually.

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown
_____________________________________________________________________________________
From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2016 10:04 AM

To: Braasch, Damon
Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

More specifically, what person discovered the Middletown Insider?  Was it someone in your office, was it you, was it an anonymous person in the community, was it a known person in the community or was is someone else in city government?
Also, when did engaging in free speech become a taxable activity?
__________________________________________________________________
On Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 9:55 AM, Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov> wrote:

Personal property is taxable under the previously referenced State Statute 12-41. 

The Middletown Insider is not exactly a hidden or unknown site.  The source is the internet.

Considering that the Middletown Insider contains news and information regarding Middletown, CT it would be illogical to believe you are located in another country, let alone another state.  Although it is conceivable you may be located in a neighboring municipality, it is likely the Insider is local.

Nonetheless, it is possible the Insider is “anywhere in the world”.  This is why contact was made.  If there is no taxable property, or if all property is located in another municipality, all that needs be done is to submit a declaration stating as much.  The belief is that the individual submitting the declaration will be honest in their reporting of assets.  This supported by the fact that the declaration must be signed under penalty of perjury.  In addition this office has the power under §12-53 to audit any person to verify taxable property is properly declared, if needed.

However, failing to submit anything would result in this office estimating the value of property and applying an additional 25% to the assessment in the form of a penalty as is required by law under §12-42.

If you would like I would be happy to meet and review the entire process, assist in the preparation of the declaration, and answer any questions.

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown
_____________________________________________________________________________________
From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2016 9:15 AM

To: Braasch, Damon
Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

Also, how do you know I'm actually located in Middletown?  I could be anywhere in the world.
__________________________________________________________________
On Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 9:11 AM, Middletown Insider <middletowninsider@gmail.com> wrote:

What is it that allegedly makes this property taxable and what source lead you to the Insider?
__________________________________________________________________
On Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 8:46 AM, Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov> wrote:

The assessor is charged with the discovery and valuation of taxable property.  We regularly review our accounts and local advertisements, newspapers, trade names, and any other available source to ensure all taxable property is assessed.  The blog itself is not being taxed, rather the personal property used in its operation.

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown
_____________________________________________________________________________________

From: Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov>
Date: Fri, Sep 2, 2016 at 8:40 AM
Subject: RE: Declaration of personal property
To: Middletown Insider <middletowninsider@gmail.com>
Yes the Eye was also asked to submit a declaration, as was the Patch.

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown
 ____________________________________________________________________________________

From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Friday, September 02, 2016 7:32 AM

To: Braasch, Damon
Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

I'm curious, did the Middletown Eye get a tax notice, too? If not, why?
_____________________________________________________________________________________
From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2016 5:18 PM

To: Braasch, Damon
Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

How did this come to your attention in the first place, and since when is having a blog taxable?

On Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 4:15 PM, Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov> wrote:
Computers are taxable as personal property. 

It is reasonable to believe that a website utilizes a computer, a modem, a printer, a desk, and a chair among other things.  All of which are subject to property tax.

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown _____________________________________________________________________________________
From: Middletown Insider [mailto:middletowninsider@gmail.com]
Sent: Thursday, September 01, 2016 4:09 PM
To: Braasch, Damon
Subject: Re: Declaration of personal property

Would you mind explaining what this is about.
Your letter, addressed to "To whom it may concern", states, "This office believes the Middletown Insider to be in possession of taxable personal property located within the city of Middletown."
Why would your office believe that?
__________________________________________________________________
On Thu, Sep 1, 2016 at 2:41 PM, Braasch, Damon <Damon.Braasch@middletownct.gov> wrote:
To Whom It May Concern:

This office believes the Middletown Insider to be in possession of taxable personal property located within the city of Middletown.  In accordance with §12-41 “The annual declaration of the tangible personal property owned by such person on the assessment date, shall include, but is not limited to, the following property: Machinery used in mills and factories, cables, wires, poles, underground mains, conduits, pipes and other fixtures of water, gas, electric and heating companies, leasehold improvements classified as other than real property and furniture and fixtures of stores, offices, hotels, restaurants, taverns, halls, factories and manufacturers. Commercial or financial information in any declaration filed under this section shall not be open for public inspection but may be disclosed to municipal officers for tax collection purposes.”

You are required to submit the declaration of personal property with this office by November 1, 2016, or be subject to penalty assessment equal to 25% of the assessed value for personal property as reported or as estimated by the assessor in accordance with §12-42.

Additional information and blank Declarations can be found at the City of Middletown’s website: http://cityofmiddletown.com/content/117/123/177/599/default.aspx

Please feel free to contact me directly should you have any questions.

Thank you,

Damon Braasch, CCMA II Assessor, City of Middletown

1 comment:

  1. Did all known bloggers get the same notice - ie, the Mayor's website, the Democratic Town Committee website, twitter, blog; the republican website; the phony mayoral cabinet started by our mayor so he could get an award....wouldn't those all use computers? hmmmmmm

    ReplyDelete

Authors of comments and posts are solely responsible for their statements. Please email MiddletownInsider@gmail.com for questions or concerns. This blog, (and any site using the blogger platform), does not and cannot track the source of comments. While opinions and criticism are fine, they are subject to moderator discretion; slander and vile attacks of individuals will not to be tolerated. Middletown Insider retains the right to deny any post or comment without explanation.