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County’s tax collection undergoes changes

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By Kristin Beck

Property tax bills have been delivered to households in Carroll County, but land owners may have already noticed a change. The bills have been simplified, and there are a few other modifications property owners should be made aware of before heading down to the courthouse this year.

The state legislature approved House Bill 262 this year assigning the county clerk’s office the task of collecting delinquent tax bills beginning on April 16, according to Shere Phelps, office manager and bookkeeper for the Carroll County Sheriffs Office. The clerk’s office also will be responsible for holding the tax bill sale some time between July 15 and Aug. 28.   

One thing that has not changed is that it still pays to be early. County residents who pay their taxes to the sheriff’s office before Nov. 1 will receive a 2 percent discount on the bill, Phelps said. Beginning Nov. 2, property owners will be responsible for their entire bill, and additional penalties will be added after Dec. 31. (See box below for deadlines and penalties that may be added to the bill.)

Carroll County has 10 taxing districts, each of which has their own rate and guidelines that determine the amount. All property owners automatically pay taxes to five of the districts: the state, the county, the school system, the library and the health department. The location of a person’s property determines whether or not they pay taxes to the other five districts: Ghent Fire, Fire Acres and the cities of Prestonville, Sanders and Worthville. The cities of Carrollton and Ghent also have taxing districts, but their taxes are not collected by the Carroll County sheriff’s office, Phelps said.

Carroll County Sheriff’s Office

Property tax season opens on Jan. 1 when the sheriff’s office begins looking into who owns property in Carroll County. Between May and June, the county clerk contacts the taxing districts about their upcoming rates, which is then announced to fiscal court.

Then, bills are printed and sent out by Oct. 1. According to Phelps, this year’s statements were mailed out on Sept. 25. Anyone who has not received a tax bill should contact the sheriff’s office.

Payment can be made either through the mail with cash or a check or in person. This is the first year that credit cards will be accepted for payment in person only. However, with Visa, Mastercard and Discover, there is a fee of 2.75 percent plus $1.50 processing fee. For American Express, the fee is 3.5 percent plus $1.50 processing fee. The system has become computerized, which allows them to simply scan the bill into the system rather than research it through multiple alphabetized books, Phelps said.

“We can print a receipt right here and that helps things a whole lot,” Phelps said.

If property owners mail in their payment and would like a receipt, they should send a self-addressed, stamped envelope to the courthouse.

Prior to House Bill 262, the state government allotted the sheriff’s office a percentage of the first $5,000 worth of collected taxes. This has since been eliminated. The sheriff’s office now receives a standard rate throughout the year, as well as collects a percentage of the penalties accumulated. This money is used to pay for the majority of expenses the office incurs, including salaries, health insurance for its employees, uniforms and gas for the patrol cars.

At close of business on April 15, tax bills are turned over to the county clerk’s office. House Bill 262 stipulates that the sheriff’s office no longer publish a list of delinquent tax payers nor maintain a Web site listing the names, Phelps said.

County Clerk’s Office

On April 16, the county clerk will begin accepting payments for the delinquent bills, according to Deputy Clerk Danielle Kinman. The county attorney fee will be waived for the first five business days. However, the interest of 1 percent per month and clerk fees will still be added to the delinquent bill. After five business days, a fee of 20 percent of the bill plus interest and clerk fees must be paid to the county clerk’s office.

The county clerk is also now in charge of the tax bill sale, which must be held between July 15 and Aug. 28. Here, private individuals, companies and the state government can purchase delinquent bills.

If an individual or a company purchases the bill, the county clerk receives its money and has no further attachment to the bill. If the state revenue cabinet buys it, the county attorney may help collect the taxes for them. If no one purchases the bill, the county retains the rights to it, according to County Attorney Jim Monk.

The county attorney’s office will then send out notices to property owners to give them an opportunity to pay without having legal actions taken out against them. Here, the county attorney’s office will work with the property valuation administrator’s office (PVA) to ensure that the addresses and owners match. Because of this, it is important to contact the PVA office when changing your address.

If the bills are still not paid, Monk said the county attorney can take two courses of action:

• Take a lean on the property and ask the court to sell the property. If the property is sold, the taxes and fees will be paid first, followed by the mortgage.

•Take legal action against the property owner if they have a job by garnishing their wages.

While a person may be hard-pressed to find another who enjoys paying their taxes, taxes play a large part in helping to serve the community.

“Property taxes is a means by which government has taken care of the necessities,” Monk said, adding that the public school system receives the majority of the property tax money.

“All of these (tax) districts, that’s why they collect is to pay for the roads, and schools, and so we can have a library,” Phelps said. “That’s how the money is generated to pay for them is through taxes.”

If you have any additional questions, please contact the Carroll County Sheriffs Office.

COUNTY’S TAX DEADLINES

Oct. 1 – Nov. 1: 2 percent discount

Nov. 2 – Dec. 31: Pay full face value of tax

Jan. 1 – Jan. 31: Face value plus 5 percent penalty

Feb. 1 – April 15: Face value plus 21 percent penalty