Thursday, June 25, 2009

A Taxing Issue

Our property tax bill came yesterday. And it came with extra paperwork. But that’s actually a good thing for a change.

Our county has switched to a four-payment system, with due dates spread out between August and January. Previously, you could make up to two payments, one due in July, the other in September. I never understood how that was supposed to help a taxpayer. But that’s because it wasn’t. It was designed to best suit the coffers of the varying tax bodies.

Under the new system, you can actually take until March to pay the whole tax bill, with a small percentage fee tacked on, of course. Even so, it you are now unemployed – or underemployed – there’s a little more breathing room between you and a tax sale. I have to think that’s a good thing. The county has seen record unemployment, so it’s all a lot of people can do to make a house payment.

I wasn't sure it had been approved as several of the taxing bodies -- the school district in particular (who lay claim to 63 percent of my tax bill) -- were grumbling about the change at it affects how and when they get their HUGE cut.

I also noticed something else with the new tax bill. The payment package included a list of deductions. Are you getting all of the deductions you’re eligible for? it asked. After looking carefully at the list, maybe not.

There’s a homestead deduction -- which we get -- because this is our primary residence, not a rental or commercial property. But there's also a senior homestead exemption for those who were age 65 by Dec. 31 last year. The mother qualifies.

What I don’t know is, since both our names are on the property, and I’m clearly nowhere near 65, if she gets anything. My thinking says she should get half, though if they’ll give her the whole thing, we’ll take it. But if I know our county government as well as I think I do, there’s probably some restriction in place to foul things up.

If I can manage it today, I’m going to call the assessor’s office and find out.