There's still time to pay your taxes

It's that time of year. It's January and it's time for us to remind people about paying their property taxes. And we're convinced it's again time to remind everyone that a word to the wise is sufficient — at least that's the way the adage goes.We've made that point before in this space on a number of occasions, because it applies to so many different matters we all face in life. That's especially true when it comes time to paying your property taxes.Area property owners can avoid the annual last-minute dash to pay their taxes by getting them out of the way early in the month, according to County Tax Assessor Kathy Sayles.“Once the taxes go delinquent in February, the penalties and interest start at 7 percent and increases each month,” said Sayles. “As of July 1, penalty and interest grows to 18 percent, with an additional penalty tacked on for attorney fees.”Sayles said taxpayers have until Jan. 31 to pay their taxes and avoid penalties and interest. After that date, things can get rather costly.“Taxpayers have from Oct. 1 to Jan. 31 to pay their taxes without any penalties or interest,” said Sayles. “In February, the penalties will start at 7 percent (6 percent penalty, 1 percent interest), and increases each month.”The tax penalty and interest schedule is as follows: After Jan. 31, 6 percent penalty and 1 percent interest; after Feb. 28, 7 percent penalty and 2 percent interest; after March 31, 8 percent penalty and 3 percent interest; after April 30, 9 percent penalty and 4 percent interest; after May 31, 10 percent penalty and 5 percent interest; and after June 30, 12 percent penalty and 6 percent interest, including an additional 20 percent attorney fee.For more information, contact the Howard County Tax Collector’s Office at 264-2232.“Some individuals don’t get their statement for whatever reason,” said Sayles. “We can pull up their name on the system and tell them the amount that’s due. So if you haven’t received a statement, call us or come by the office. Some people, because of their homestead exemptions, have no taxes, so we don’t send them a notice. However, if they just want to make sure everything is OK, all they have to do is call.“They can reference their check with an account number that we can give them so they can get their payment in the mail. Once that’s done, we mail them back a receipt for their payment.”For taxpayers over the age of 65 or currently on disability, Sayles said there is a special installment plan that can help them avoid penalties and interest, which can quickly add up.“There is a provision that allows taxpayers over the age of 65 to pay their taxes in four installments without any penalties or interest,” said Sayles. “You make your first payment in January, then you just make the remaining three payments in April, June and Aug. 1. This is for people 65 and older or are receiving disability.”And one more thing. Remember that Sayles and her employees go by the postmark on the envelope, so make sure those tax payments get mailed by the end of this month.OK. That's more than a few words to the wise, but that are, we think, words well spent.