An unpopular but necessary part of the holiday season is property tax time.
About the first of December, approximately 20,000 cards are mailed out notifying landowners of taxes due.
This year’s cards should be going out in the next week or so. If you own property and don’t receive a card by Dec. 26, you need to call or go by the Union County Tax Assessor-Collector’s office..
Tax Assessor-Collector Tameri Dunnam said the taxes are really due Jan. 1 with a Feb. 1 deadline but many people prefer to pay their taxes earlier. There is a one-percent per month penalty for delinquent payments and the property may eventually be sold in August to pay delinquent taxes.
Property owners should see little change from last year unless improvements have been made to the property or buildings have been demolished. The appraisal update is done every four years.
Taxes are based on the appraised value of the property rather than a sale price and the state has a uniform appraisal system. Staff members look at the type of building, construction materials, type of roof, number of baths, number of heating and cooling units, square footage and other basics to determine appraised value. The county has contracted for the real property appraisal with a retired state auditor familiar with appraisals.
A property owner may come in anytime to update appraisal if, for instance, a building is demolished or some other substantive change is made and taxes can be lowered.
Some questions come up every year concerning taxes.
“First, everyone pays school taxes,” Dunnam said. “It doesn’t matter whether you have a child in school.” No one pays both city and county school taxes although some erroneously believe they do. That’s usually true for someone who lives in the large area in the northeast part of the county that is the so-called “added territory” for the city school district. People see city school tax listed even though they live out in the county and they assume – wrongly – county school tax is added in somewhere as well. It is not.
Another question concerns the listed value of property. “It’s not market value or selling value,” Dunnam said, but calculated using the state formula. You do not want to pay tax based on market value, most likely, because you would be paying considerably more.
A third question concerns why tax on one piece of property might be much higher than for a similar plot. Dunnam said that is often because the person with higher taxes may not be taking advantage of exemptions available to him or her.
Exemptions include being 100-percent disabled or being over age 65. Another is using Homestead Exemption, but you must apply for any of these.
Homestead Exemption is a benefit available to homeowners who live in the county and pay all applicable taxes. Regular Homestead allows up to $300 tax credit on a home with a $75,000 or more appraised value. Special Homestead is for residents 65 years old or older at Jan. 1, or who are 100 percent disabled. It exempts up to $75,000 of the appraised value.
One may apply for Homestead Exemption between Jan. 2 and April 1. You need to bring to the tax office a filed warranty deed, Social Security numbers for all those listed on the deeds as well as their spouses, all license tag numbers, and, if disabled, a Notice of Award Letter saying you are 100-percent disabled. If you are applying for a veteran’s exemption you will need a letter from the Department of Veterans Affairs saying you are 100-percent disabled and it is service connected.
If you are granted Homestead Exemption you don’t have to reapply every year. You do have to reapply if a life change has occurred such as death, divorce, marriage or sale of homesteaded properties occurs.
Each property owner should receive one of the brightly-colored tax bill cards in the mail by the end of December. If you don’t, you need to contact Dunnam’s office because the bill is due whether you receive a card or not.
The cards are bright reddish-pink. The color is because the old cards tended to be mistaken for junk mail or overlooked completely. “The color lets you know they are important,” Dunnam said.
You can pay your taxes any time before Feb. 1 but Dunnam said the busiest times, especially in January, are from 11:30 a.m. to 2 p.m. and 3:30 to 5 p.m. “There’s usually a line,” she said.
You can also pay taxes with credit cards but there will be a 2.35-percent convenience fee added because state law does not allow that fee to be included in the tax bill.
Anyone who has questions may call Dunnam’s office at 534-1972 or go to the office in the county courthouse where her staff will glad to help. The information on the new tax bills is generally self-explanatory if one reads it, however.