The phones have been ringing this week at the Charleston County Auditor’s Office because an estimated 22,000 county residents were mistakenly sent a second vehicle tax bill.

The bills for vehicle taxes due in September were printed and mailed a second time by a Columbia company that processes the county’s bills, according to Auditor Peter Tecklenburg and Tim Delaney, president of Laser Print Plus.

“It’s obviously their fault, and it’s one of those things that we didn’t find out about until we started getting calls on Monday,” Tecklenburg said.

Most people would have received the second bill on Saturday, he said.

Tecklenburg said people who received a second bill should disregard it. The county’s tax system is set up to only accept one payment, so people who attempt to pay the second bill will either find that they are unable to on the county’s online system, or will get their check back if they mail one in.

“We haven’t had any of those (double payments), but we have had people calling,” said County Treasurer Andy Smith. “We just tell people that they were sent out in duplicate, and they can just throw the second one away.”

Delaney said his company accepts responsibility for the error. Laser Print Plus has been handling the vehicle tax bills for Charleston County since 2002, printing and mailing about 30,000 bills monthly, and this hasn’t happened before, he said.

“A file that should have been deleted wasn’t, and it was processed a second time,” Delaney said. “I told them that we would pay for the postage and the printing cost, so there won’t be a cost to the county.”

Tecklenburg said that the September tax bills were mailed out as planned in early August. Then, in the middle of the month when a small batch of different bills would normally go out to people who had recently bought new cars, the printer instead sent out all of the regular bills a second time.

“You’re talking about a very expensive mistake, and of course it’s caused us some headaches,” said Tecklenburg, who just took office in June.

Reach David Slade at 937-5552 or Twitter @DSladeNews.