Property taxes can now be paid in 12 installments

Published 5:35 pm Monday, July 23, 2018

Property owners in Carter County now have more options available to them when it comes time to pay their county taxes after a proposal by the County Trustee was overwhelmingly approved by the Carter County Commission last week.

Members of the Commission voted 22-2 to approve a resolution adopting a new payment plan for property taxes allowing those payments to be made in 12 installments if the taxpayer chooses. Commissioners Robert Carroll and Ronnie Trivett provided the two votes against the proposal.

Under the previous policy, property owners could divide their tax bill into four payments. County Trustee Randal Lewis said he and his staff had received several requests from property owners to stretch that into more payments. After receiving those requests, Lewis and his staff drafted a proposed new policy that would allow property owners to make up to 12 payments when paying their tax bill.

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That proposal became county policy once the Commission approved it.

“We’re really excited about it,” Lewis said of the new policy.

Since Lewis and his staff first began discussing their proposal, Lewis said there was some confusion as to how the payment plan works. Many people have thought the new policy set up a monthly payment plan, Lewis said, adding that is not the case.

The new payment option does not change any of the tax payment deadlines that are set in place by the state. All property taxes must be paid on or before Feb. 28 to avoid interest being added to the balance, Lewis said.

“They will just pay interest on any balance that is left after February 28,” Lewis said. “They will basically have five months to make as many payments as possible, up to 12, before interest kicks in.”

The interest rate on any unpaid balance is set at 1.5 percent monthly up to a maximum of 19.5 percent interest the following March. Any prior year taxes unpaid on April 1 are transferred from the Trustee’s Office to the Clerk and Master for action.

Those residents who participate in the Tax Relief Program through the county and state will also still have to meet the Feb. 28 payment deadline in order to be eligible to receive tax relief credits, according to Lewis.

The new policy also does not change when property owners can begin making their tax payments, Lewis said.

“We cannot accept payments prior to the beginning of collections in October,” Lewis said.

The start of tax collections may be somewhat delayed this year due to the tax rate being currently unset. On July 16, the Carter County Commission approved the budget for the 2018-19 fiscal year which included a property tax rate of $2.58 per $100 of assessed property value. On July 19, Carter County Mayor Leon Humphrey vetoed both the budget and the tax rate.

The Commission will now have to meet to decide whether to override the veto or approve a new budget and new tax rate. That meeting is currently set for August 6.

Lewis said his staff could not begin their work in calculating taxes for property owners until the Commission sets the tax rate.

Lewis said he hopes his office can begin accepting tax payments during the first week of October, but if setting the tax rate is delayed further it could delay the Trustee’s Office sending tax notices to property owners.