By ADAM RUSSELL, firstname.lastname@example.org
Around two dozen would-be late Smith County property taxpayers avoided penalties and interest by making last-minute drives across town to hand money directly to the taxman.
The drives saved them more than $10,000, county Tax Assessor/Collector Gary Barber said. The payment deadline was Jan. 31. Any payment not posted or postmarked for delivery that day is considered late by state law.
Penalties begin at 7 percent Feb. 1 and increase 2 percent per month until it reaches 18 percent by July 1 in addition to a 15 percent collection fee. The initial 7 percent would add more than $200 to a $3,000 tax balance.
Penalties continue to escalate in 1 percent increments after that.
Barber stood in the Cotton Belt Building until 7 p.m. (the main office closes each weekday at 4:30 p.m.) to take payments. He had announced the offer through local media and was skeptical about how many takers there might be.
By 6:45 pm., when the last vehicle frantically entered the parking, Barber held 38 checks, more than $143,000 in property tax payments that would have been late otherwise. Penalties and interest for the balances would have been more than $10,000, he said.
“It paid off for a few people,” he said. “I was happy we had one (person show up) but taxpayers saved $10,000 and that was worth it.”
Barber said late payments continue to trickle in. He said his office’s staff has been processing payments quickly and that receipts are $8.5 million ahead of Feb. 7 last year. Barber said 92.7 percent of the total levy has been paid compared to 92.1 percent at the same time last year.
“It went over well. It sure made a few people happy,” he said. “It shows (the tax office) made an effort and that by doing it we saved some taxpayers money.”