Editorials: Tax payment options good for the people
Dec 11, 2013 | 420 views | 0 0 comments | 37 37 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A taxpayer-friendly program whose origin can be credited to the down-to-earth thinking of Bradley County Trustee Mike Smith is wrapping up the first of two open enrollment periods.

Local residents wishing to sign up for the popular partial payment option for their property taxes — as opposed to paying a much larger lump sum once each year — have until Friday to visit the Trustee’s Office. For those who miss this date, a second enrollment period will begin Jan. 2, 2014.

Now in its third year, the customized payment plan is easing the pain of property tax payments for many Bradley County residents who previously had struggled with the lump-sum amount.

For any who are unfamiliar with the plan, the partial property tax payment program allows the individual taxpayer to work out a prearranged agreement with the Trustee’s Office regarding payment amounts. Most households simply divide their annual lump sum amount by 12 and pay this lower, more affordable amount each month. For example, a $600 per annum property tax bill can be converted to $50 per month for those prefering this level of convenience.

It doesn’t even have to be done monthly. Some taxpayers might prefer bimonthly payments or quarterly. It depends strictly on the taxpayer’s preference in negotiating a payment plan with the Trustee’s Office.

Another perspective is merely to view it as an installment plan for repaying a loan. The key difference is interest does not accrue over the length of the payment term. The taxpayer keeps paying the same agreed amount until the annual sum is paid.

Such a partial payment plan, whether monthly or other, is convenient for several groups, a few of whom include:

n Households where the primary income earner has lost his/her job;

n Households where catastrophic illness has not only created lost income, but resulted in huge medical bills;

n Households where workers have become disabled and now must live on less income;

n Households where a series of misfortunes and unplanned setbacks have debilitated checking accounts and drained modest savings;

n Households where fixed incomes, such as with the elderly, make it difficult to stay afloat financially day to day and month to month; and

n Households where workers are underemployed and are being forced to work two or three part-time jobs to keep the bills paid.

Such examples, and yes they are real, point to the importance of innovation and forward thinking within a government office like the Trustee’s where taxpayers are dependent upon fairness, equality and flexibility.

We have written of the partial payment plan before. We will do so again. That’s because it is a prime example of local government working with, and for, the people.

We have credited Mike Smith for his degree of innovativeness. Likely, we will do so again. Such flexibility speaks to the trustee’s leadership, but even more so it is a testament to the need for a government that serves as willing partner to the people by whom it is held accountable.

As important as the installment payment plan is, other programs of interest also operate from within the Trustee’s Office.

One is a similar partial payment plan for delinquent taxes. Another is a tax relief program which allows the elderly and disabled veterans to receive discounts on their tax bills. Yet another is a tax freeze program that caters to the fixed incomes of many elderly. Those who qualify may have their property tax payments frozen at the same rate without facing future increases.

Smith’s capable staff in the Trustee’s Office can best explain all tax options. We will defer to their expertise.

But for those interested in learning more, call the Bradley County Trustee’s Office at 423-728-7247 or drop in for a visit in Room 104 of the Bradley County Courthouse.

Most property owners feel a sense of pride in paying their taxes. But such payments also can bring great pain.

Governments that find a middle ground are the governments that truly serve the people. The Trustee’s Office is one such government operation.