04/01/09 — Local tax collection on track for 2009

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Local tax collection on track for 2009

By Steve Herring
Published in News on April 1, 2009 1:46 PM

Tax collections in Wayne County do not appear to be reflective of an otherwise struggling economy.

As of this week the tax collection rate of about 95.2 percent is lagging just 0.3 percent behind the same period last year.

Also, there is only a slight difference in the number of parcels on which delinquent taxes are owed and that were published last week in the county's annual delinquent real estate tax list.

About 100 fewer parcels were listed in that publication, Tax Administrator David Ward said Tuesday.

The amounts owed range from just over $8 to several thousands of dollars.

Ward said he is not surprised by the collection rate.

"People who normally pay in a timely manner do so and that was even true this past year," Ward said. "This year is very typical of every year."

Ward is hopeful the collection rate will hit 97 percent by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year.

Lines stretched out the door at the tax office as the Jan. 6 deadline to pay taxes approached. Every year there are late taxpayers who try to beat the deadline so as to not be included in the published listing, he said.

But there was no mad dash by people this year to pay their taxes before publication of the delinquent tax list, Ward said.

Two percent interest was assessed for taxes not paid before the Jan. 6 deadline. Another 0.75 percent is added for every additional month that the taxes are late.

People who have not yet paid their taxes are subject to accrued interest in the amount of 4.25 percent of the amount owed.

While Ward is hopeful of a 97 percent collection rate, expectations are not as high for the vehicle tax collection rate. That is not unexpected -- the collection rate traditionally hovers in the mid-80 percent range.

Vehicle taxes are handled differently, Ward said. Those taxes are paid on a monthly cycle and there is about a three-month lag between the time people renew their vehicle registration and receive their tax notice.

Late vehicle taxes are subject to 5 percent interest for the first month they are late and 0.75 percent for each additional month.

A new state law slated to go into effect in 2011 would change how vehicle taxes are collected.

Under the new law, the taxes would be paid at the same time a person renews and pays for his new vehicle registration.

Currently, if the taxes are delinquent, the county can block subsequent renewals until the taxes are paid, but even then, some people won't pay their taxes until it is time to renew them, county tax officials have said.

In other cases, it is difficult to track down people who have not paid their taxes. Also, with a limited staff it is not always cost effective, officials said.

During a recent county commissioners' work session County Attorney Borden Parker told commissioners that the additional 3 percent on the vehicle tax is kept by the state to fund the computers and software to collect the taxes.

Parker suggested that commissioners consider asking legislators to make the interest on the first month of all delinquent taxes 5 percent, but with the additional money going to the county, not the state.