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Utah County Commission overcomes language barrier to hear tax complaint

No one can say the Utah County Commissioners don't go the extra mile in trying to help out the taxpayer.

At a recent commission meeting, as the commissioners moved into the work session that routinely includes taxpayers who feel they've experienced a miscarriage of justice, it became apparent that Chun Kuen Liu's case would be fairly complicated.Not only did Liu have three properties to discuss, but, in addition, Liu speaks Chinese and the commissioners only speak English. Well, that is, except for Commissioner Jerry Grover who admits to being able to handle a little rudimentary Mandarin and fluent Italian.

It's never easy to explain the law to taxpayers even when they understand the language.

Explaining why a penalty or the interest charged on the unpaid taxes cannot be easily dismissed by the commission becomes infinitely more difficult when there's a language barrier.

To help, a call was sent out to Jim Jensen, a Utah County extension service employee who is listed in the county handbook as one who speaks Chinese. (The Utah County in-house directory has a special category for those who speak foreign languages.) Until Jensen could arrive, Grover did what he could.

He patiently pointed and gestured and smiled and uttered what words and phrases that seemed to pertain. Liu, in turn, nodded earnestly at critical moments.

"You'd never see them do this in Salt Lake County (commission meeting)," quipped Commissioner David G. Gardner, as everyone waited to see how the conversation would end.

"You can't say they don't go to great lengths to work with residents," said a voice from the back of the chamber.

The penalty, by the way, on Liu's tax bill was waived because it was discovered the county had the option of sending mail to two addresses and chose the wrong address.

When the commission feels the error is a county mistake, their policy is to waive the penalty but generally not the interest.