By RICK NORTON
Bradley County taxpayers who missed the first enrollment period for the Trustee’s Office partial payment program for 2018 property taxes still have a second chance to sign up.It starts Wednesday …
Bradley County taxpayers who missed the first enrollment period for the Trustee’s Office partial payment program for 2018 property taxes still have a second chance to sign up.
It starts Wednesday and will continue through Friday, Feb. 9.
At the early December close of the first registration, another 68 parcels had been enrolled, a number that Trustee Mike Smith described as “… about average.” However, the gain was partially offset by a large number of homeowner deaths or home sales (38) that removed the parcels from the partial payment list.
“Still, we had a good initial sign-up period,” Smith said. “That’s the positive, and we’re excited about the start of the second enrollment period on Wednesday.”
Based on the program’s eight-year trend, the second sign-up has always been busier as homeowners and landowners who need the flexibility of installment payments rush to beat the final deadline.
Although the second sign-up ends Feb. 9, the first tax payments for those in the program for 2018 taxes will be due March 15.
Heading into the second registration, the Trustee’s Office has on file 1,384 parcels for the partial plan. When the first enrollment period started in late October, some 1,336 parcels were included in the program.
In a previous interview prior to year’s end, Smith stressed the second enrollment period is traditionally higher. He projected by its conclusion the partial plan could have as many as 1,440 parcels.
“We continue to see more and more interest in partial payment,” Smith said. “As we’ve said before, not everyone needs this type of flexibility in paying their property taxes; however, in many cases people do.”
Most enrollees in the partial payment plan are elderly; in other words, those who live on a fixed income and whose spending power has lessened substantially since retirements.
In 2010, Smith began receiving more and more requests from Bradley County homeowners for options on how to pay their taxes. Most told the trustee they could keep their taxes paid if they had some help. The once-a-year, lump-sum payment — which then was the only option — was becoming more of a challenge for those with a limited cash flow.
“These are the people who came to us back then,” Smith said. “They told us about their need, they verified their incomes and limited spending power, and they asked us for help.”
He added, “So, we started putting together a plan to make it happen.”
The plan materialized in 2010, thanks in full to Smith’s staff, and to approval by both the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and members of the Bradley County Commission.
“Without the approval of the comptroller and our county commissioners, we could not have made this program available to the taxpayers who need it most,” Smith said. “I will always take this attitude: The partial payment program (also known as the monthly payment plan) is good for Bradley County and it is good for Bradley County residents.”
He added, “That’s the way any program should be that is originated by local government at the behest of our local residents.”
Although most enrollees in partial payment prefer monthly installments, other options are also on the table including quarterly payments, twice a year or some other frequency, provided it can be negotiated by the taxpayers and the Trustee’s Office.
As an example of how partial payment works, if it is based on monthly installments, it is calculated like this: If a parcel’s property taxes are set at $500 per year, then the smaller monthly payment would be about $42.
Taxes can be paid by check, credit card, debit card, cash or automatic withdrawal. Residents can pay their taxes by sending their checks in the mail or by dropping by the trustee’s temporary office currently located in the former SouthEast Bank building at the corner of 17th and Keith streets.
Details about the partial payment program, or other tax-related options, can be obtained by visiting the Trustee’s Office or by calling 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.
Two additional tax programs operated by the Trustee’s Office include the tax relief and tax freeze plans. A description of each is reprinted below. Questions about either or both should be directed to the Trustee’s Office.
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.
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.
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