Right behind New Year’s resolutions like losing weight, ditching the cellphone and spending more time with loved ones, a fourth might be to go ahead and sign up for the partial payment tax …
Right behind New Year’s resolutions like losing weight, ditching the cellphone and spending more time with loved ones, a fourth might be to go ahead and sign up for the partial payment tax plan.
The installment program’s second enrollment cycle starts Thursday and will continue through Feb. 8.
If tradition holds, the five-week opportunity could become one of the busiest in recent years as more and more Bradley County taxpayers — especially elderly residents living on modest fixed incomes — come to grips with the advantages of paying their taxes in smaller increments like monthly, quarterly or biannually instead of the conventional lump-sum total in February.
As 2018 slid into its final days, the Bradley County Trustee’s Office greeted another surge of registrants, bringing the total of enrolled parcels to a record-shattering 1,577. In the first enrollment period’s final five days, office staff signed up 44 county taxpayers, prompting Trustee Mike Smith to suggest his original forecast of 1,600 will be easily eclipsed.
“We saw a significant increase in our partial payment enrollment in the first cycle in late 2018,” Smith said. “That tells us one thing: The second enrollment period, which starts in just a few days, should take us to numbers we’ve never seen before.”
Since 2010, when partial payment debuted, the sign-up cycle in January and February has traditionally exceeded the one in November and December.
“This could be the case for several reasons,” Smith advised. “One, by the early part of the year citizens might have a better grasp on their spending power for the coming year. Two, in November and December, most citizens have their minds on the holidays and find that they’ve got plenty of other things to do. Third, it’s pretty natural to put off until tomorrow what we couldn’t get done today.”
Of the partial payment program’s continuing growth, Smith said it points to significant need in the community, as well as the power of word-of-mouth advertising and getting the message out to the public through partnerships with news media outlets.
“It happens every time,” Smith said. “When another story about partial payment, and how it works, hits the news we’ll see a noticeable uptick in traffic into our office from taxpayers saying they want to sign up for partial payment … or any of our other tax programs like tax freeze and tax relief.”
Now entering its ninth year, partial payment is becoming more of a household term among Bradley County taxpayers, especially those whose cash flow is better suited for installment types of payments.
Here’s an example of the benefit: A homeowner whose property is valued at $500 in annual taxes, can make monthly payments of slightly more than $40.
“That’s a big help to a lot of people,” Smith said. “It’s why the partial payment plan came along in 2010. Taxpayers asked us for options. So, we came up with a plan based on their needs. It was their idea. We just worked the details. And then, the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and Bradley County Commission gave the program their blessings.”
The trustee continued, “Since that time, it has been a win-win for everybody.”
The partial payment plan is not the only life-changer offered by the Trustee’s Office. Two others are the tax freeze and tax relief programs.
• Tax Relief Program: Application deadline is April 5. Since enrollment started for the newest tax season, tax relief has increased its participating numbers to 1,549.
Tax relief is a state of Tennessee plan that reimburses eligible homeowners for a portion, or all, of their paid property taxes. Tax relief is not an exemption; eligible residents will be responsible for paying them. But they do stand to be reimbursed, if they qualify.
• Tax Freeze Program: Application deadline is also April 5. Since enrollment started for the newest tax season, tax freeze now lists 1,255 participants.
Tax freeze is a Bradley County plan that was approved by the Bradley County Commission in 2007. It will freeze the property taxes of applicants, age 65 and older by Dec. 31, 2018, at the current amount owed when the applicant is initially approved. Applicants must apply each year for the tax freeze program.
Information about any of the tax-assistance programs may be obtained by calling the Trustee’s Office at 423-728-7247. Office hours are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
The Trustee’s Office operates in the old SouthEast Bank building at 1701 Keith St. It is located at the corner of Keith and 17th streets, and is now marked by exterior signage.
The facility offers a couple of major advantages over the old Courthouse location. One, it offers ample parking for visitors and staff; and two, the building offers increased floor space.
“Any Bradley County citizens who have an interest in any of these programs should drop by and see us,” Smith said. “Our capable staff will give you the time you need, and we’ll explain these programs in detail to help taxpayers better understand them.”
He added, “Anyone who missed the first enrollment in November and December for partial payment is encouraged to drop by and take advantage of the second one. Once it gets underway Thursday, the new sign-up deadline will be Friday, Feb. 8.”
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