Partial payment tax plan closes at record numbers

Tax relief, freeze enrollment continues

By RICK NORTON
Posted 2/11/19

A heavy swarm of enrollments in the final week of registration pushed participation numbers in the taxpayer-friendly partial payment program to record levels, Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith …

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Partial payment tax plan closes at record numbers

Tax relief, freeze enrollment continues

Posted

A heavy swarm of enrollments in the final week of registration pushed participation numbers in the taxpayer-friendly partial payment program to record levels, Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith confirmed late Friday.

With 1,745 parcels now enrolled, sign-up for the 9-year-old plan has ended for 2019 property taxes. 

Registration is expected to start again for 2020 taxes in late October, and continue until early December. A second enrollment for the same tax year will be held in early 2020 spanning several weeks in January and February.

“We exceeded the most overly optimistic projections for this year’s partial payment enrollment,” Smith told the Cleveland Daily Banner. “The past seven days, which was the final eligible week for registration, we enrolled 97 parcels on the program.”

The elated trustee, a longtime officeholder in Bradley County government, added, “That brings the total number of parcels in partial payment to 1,745. The Trustee’s Office is so thankful we can offer this beneficial service, free of charge, to the many citizens this program helps.”

Although partial payment — an installment plan launched in 2010 — is open to any Bradley County property owner, it is especially popular among the county’s elderly population whose fixed-income retirements limit their spending power and restricts their month-to-month cash flow. Subsequently, making the conventional once-per-year, lump-sum property tax payment in February, or sooner, is more difficult.

Under the guidelines of partial payment, enrollees are allowed to pay their property taxes in smaller installments — whether monthly, quarterly, biannually or some other combination that can be arranged by the individual taxpayer and the Trustee’s Office.

“I, and the employees of the Trustee’s Office, enjoy working with our citizens to make life a little easier,” Smith said. “The manager of the partial payment program, David Swallows, does an outstanding job maintaining the accuracy of these accounts.”

Partial payment’s birth came at the request of income-limited taxpayers who appealed to the Trustee’s Office years ago for options on how to spread their tax payments over the course of the year as opposed to the lump sum. In response to their concerns, Smith and his staff devised the concept of partial payment.

Blessed by the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and the Bradley County Commission, the local initiative became the second such partial payment plan in Tennessee. In the past nine years, many more local-government jurisdictions in the state have instituted this type of taxpaying option.

“Seeing the faces of our citizens — with so many of them being senior citizens — when they sign up for partial payment, is so well worth the effort of offering it to our folks,” Smith said. “You have to see it for yourself to understand how relieved they are to be able to avoid that once-a-year lump sum by paying their taxes in smaller installments. In the long term, they’re still paying the same amount for the year, they’re just doing it in smaller increments … amounts that are much more manageable to their cash flow.”

Under partial payment, local residents can pay their taxes through direct deposit, check, cash, credit card or debit card. They can do it electronically, by mail or the old-fashioned way … by visiting the Trustee’s Office to pay it in person.

New records also

for tax relief

and tax freeze

While the popular partial payment program grabs most of the headlines, the ongoing tax relief and tax freeze programs are also hitting record numbers. Although signup for partial payment is now concluded, the application deadline for tax relief and tax freeze continues through April 5.

As of Friday, 1,752 Bradley County taxpayers had enrolled for tax relief.

Under both tax relief and tax freeze, there is a maximum income guideline. For tax relief, the income level tops out at $29,270, and the tax freeze maximum is $32,230. The 2017 income is used to determine eligibility.

“Connie Fulmer and Kim Osment will continue to assist our senior citizens who qualify for tax relief, which is a program funded through the state of Tennessee,” Smith said. “Just like partial payment, enrollment continues to rise in this program. We just want to remind all Bradley County citizens and taxpayers, the deadline for enrollment in partial payment has now passed. However, eligible taxpayers can still sign up for tax relief or tax freeze until April 5.”

As he does on a regular basis, Smith credited the work of his staff for the success of all the office’s tax-assistance programs.

“As the trustee, this is not what I’m doing,” Smith stressed. “This is what our tremendous staff is doing. We could not accomplish the level of success with these programs that we do without the dedication of our employees. They are the reason these programs are a success. They are the reason these programs continue to grow.”

The trustee called it “another great year” for all three tax-assistance programs, while repeating that enrollment continues for both tax relief and tax freeze.

More details

about tax relief

and tax freeze

• Tax relief: This is a state-funded 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 their taxes. However, they do stand to be reimbursed, if they qualify.

• Tax freeze: This 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.

Trustee’s Office

operation hours

and location

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. on 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 includes 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 our programs should drop by and see us,” Smith said. “We will give our citizens whatever time they need, and we’ll try our best to explain the programs in a way that will make them easy to understand.”

He added, “One of the opportunities we get in local government is to try to make life a little easier for our citizens. That’s what these tax-assistance programs are all about.”

A reminder

about county

clerk operations

Also operating out of the old SouthEast Bank building, in conjunction with the Trustee’s Office, is a drive-through operation for car tag and handicapped placard renewals by two staff members of Bradley County Clerk Donna Simpson.

Tag and placard renewals can be done only in the drive-through operation, and not from inside the building. 

Now that the Bradley County Courthouse has reopened following the completion of fire-related repairs, full county clerk services are also available from the downtown office located on the ground-level floor of the Courthouse.

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