By RICK NORTON
Five days remain for Bradley County taxpayers who want to sign up for the partial payment program offered through the Trustee’s Office; at least, for the current calendar year.A second enrollment …
Five days remain for Bradley County taxpayers who want to sign up for the partial payment program offered through the Trustee’s Office; at least, for the current calendar year.
A second enrollment period for 2018 property taxes will be offered beginning Wednesday, Jan. 3, and will continue through Friday, Feb. 9.
But for those wishing to make the commitment now, the first signup period — which started in late October — will conclude Friday at 5 p.m., according to Mike Smith, Bradley County trustee.
When the first enrollment period got underway, the Trustee’s Office had recorded 1,336 parcels in the partial payment program. In the early going, another 31 were added, and that number has continued to grow.
Launched in 2010 at the behest of Bradley County taxpayers who needed payment options for their property taxes — as opposed to the conventional once-a-year lump-sum payment — the partial payment plan allows signees to pay their property taxes in installments.
The most popular alternative to the lump-sum payment is monthly. However, taxpayers also have the flexibility of working out plans with the trustee’s staff based on quarterly payments, twice a year or some other installment that is negotiable between the Trustee’s Office and the individual taxpayers.
“The partial payment plan was made possible by taxpayers — many of them elderly — who came to us almost eight years ago and asked us to consider options that would make it easier for them to pay their taxes,” Smith explained. “In many cases, when taxpayers retire they lose some spending power because of fixed incomes.”
Smith added, “That means they often need options in how to pay their property taxes. Instead of a bigger, once-a-year payment, many find it better for their own individual needs to pay in installments, whether it’s monthly or some other frequency.”
The longtime trustee credited two entities for approving the partial payment plan: the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and the Bradley County Commission.
For Bradley County taxpayers signing up for a monthly installment under the partial payment plan, here’s how it works: For example, if a parcel’s lump-sum annual payment is $500, the number would be divided by 12, meaning the taxpayer would owe about $42 per month.
For those signing up for partial payment, or who have previously signed up, the first tax payment for 2018 will be due March 15.
“Not everyone needs the convenience of a partial payment plan, but many do,” Smith said. “As we in this office have said, this program is good for Bradley County taxpayers, and if it’s good for our taxpayers then it’s good for Bradley County.”
Most types of payment are accepted for the partial payment plan: Check, cash, credit card, debit card and in some cases automatic withdrawal. Details are available by visiting the Trustee’s Office at its temporary location in the former SouthEast Bank building at the corner of 17th and Keith streets.
Information may also be obtained by calling the office at 423-728-7248.
Trustee’s Office hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.
“The efforts of my staff, with the cooperation of the state Comptroller’s Office, have made life much easier for many Bradley County taxpayers,” Smith said. “When the partial payment idea was presented and approved by the Bradley County Commission back in 2010, we thought some would see a benefit, but no one had any idea it would grow in the number of participants as it has.”
At its inception, the program’s goal was to attract 500 parcels within the first five years. That target was easily eclipsed in three.
“This is one of those examples of cooperation where everyone can take some pride,” Smith said. “The people told government what they needed most, and government responded. That’s the way it’s supposed to work.”
The partial payment program is just one of other tax-related initiatives provided by the Trustee’s Office. Two others include the Tax Relief and Tax Freeze programs. Information on each can be found below.
Tax Relief Program
This is a state tax-relief initiative that pays a portion of the property taxes for elderly residents and disabled individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements.
The Tax Relief Program pays these amounts, according to information provided by Smith’s office:
• Up to $115 for eligible property owners who live within the Cleveland city limits;
• Up to $142 for eligible property owners who live outside the fire fringe limits;
• Up to $143 for eligible property owners who live inside the fire fringe limits; and
• Up to $33 for eligible property owners who live within the Charleston city limits.
Those eligible for the Tax Relief option must be 65 or older by Dec. 31, 2017, or a disabled homeowner; must own and use the property as a primary residence; and must have a maximum 2016 income for applicant, spouse and all owners of the property of no more than $29,180.
Application deadline for 2017 is April 5, 2018.
For detailed information on required documentation and identification, contact the Trustee’s Office.
Tax Freeze Program
The Tax Freeze Program was adopted by the Bradley County Commission in August 2007, to help control property tax increases for property owners age 65 and older whose income does not exceed an income limit set by the state, Smith explained.
According to Trustee’s Office literature, “The tax is frozen at the tax amount for the year the property owner initially qualifies for the program. The tax amount will not increase as long as the property owner meets the eligibility requirements, and there are no improvements to the property.”
Eligibility requirements for the 2017 Tax Freeze Program include: Must be 65 or older on or before Dec. 31, 2017; must own and use the property as a primary residence; and maximum 2016 income for applicant, spouse and all owners of the property must not exceed $32,130.
Like the Tax Relief Program, Cleveland and Bradley County residents should contact the Trustee’s Office for detailed information.
To best serve Bradley County taxpayers, it is recommended they make a phone call to the Trustee’s Office first before making a personal visit in order to understand the types of documentation and identification to bring for each taxpayer program sign-up.
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