Though 2011 Liberty County property tax bills are just now hitting mailboxes, Tax Commissioner Virgil Jones is spreading the message that property owners don’t have to wait for their invoices to make payments.
When the board of commissioners passed a resolution Nov. 30 adopting the millage rates for each county taxing entity, they did so with the anticipation that the county’s 26,500 tax notices would be mailed in the first two weeks of December — but Jones said that’s not quite the case.
“The big issue right now is that, unfortunately, tax bills are going out later than normal and much later than I would like for them to,” Jones said.
Though the rates were approved in November, the county must submit a complete tax digest, including the millage rates for local authorities, to the Georgia Department of Revenue for approval before it can send bills to property owners.
This year, the revenue department did not issue an approval letter until Dec. 7, and there typically is a two-week lag time between when the bill vendor receives the approval letter and when all the bills are sent out, Jones said.
Over the weekend, Jones learned that a small number of property owners received their bills Saturday — leaving only a week for them to take advantage of the tax incentives that come with filing before Dec. 31.
The final due date on the notices is Feb. 29, but property owners often try to pay them in the same calendar year so that the taxes paid can be a deduction from the same years’ federal income tax filings, according to Jones.
The delay, combined with holiday distractions, has complicated taxpayers’ ability to pay on time to receive the incentives — both for those who pay out of pocket and for those who rely on their mortgage companies to submit payments, he added.
Fortunately, the county was able to load the billing information into its computer system last week, and Jones’ office began receiving payments Thursday from taxpayers who inquired about their bills.
Those who would like to pay before Dec. 31 can do so by calling the tax commissioner’s office at 876-3389 or going to www.libertygatax.com.
The delay also could affect the taxing entities that rely on tax revenue for operations, he said.
Agencies such as the Liberty County Board of Education and the Liberty County Development Authority previously have reported that they rely on their fund balances to help them through the time of year when there typically is no tax revenue, and Jones said the delay has the potential to hinder their operations.
However, because the county is able to receive payments, Jones is anticipating many bills will be paid this week and that entities should begin receiving their revenue next week. Additionally, payouts should increase considerably each week, he said.
As for avoiding the issue in the future, doing so will be an obstacle, as the board of education delays setting its millage rate to ensure it is near the average rate of other school systems in the state, because setting a rate too far from the average could affect its ability to receive federal aid as it relates to Fort Stewart, the tax commissioner said.
Jones encourages residents with questions about their assessments to call his office, and he encourages those with questions about when or how best to pay their taxes to speak with an accountant or tax advisor.