01/07/10 — Duplin tax collections on track, officials say

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Duplin tax collections on track, officials say

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on January 7, 2010 1:46 PM

KENANSVILLE -- The deadline passed Monday for paying taxes on property and motor vehicles in Duplin County.

The county finance office does not yet have the official collection numbers for the year, but will likely have the information by next week. The numbers are likely to show a collection rate similar to last year's, county tax administrator Gary Rose said.

The tax offices were bursting with people as the deadline approached, Rose said. Many people waited until the last minute to get their bills paid this year.

"It should've gone good, because there have been a lot of people paying taxes since Christmas," Rose said.

On one day alone, the office took in over $1 million in payments, he said.

"That's a lot for us," Rose said.

Taxes had to be paid by 5 p.m. on Jan. 5 to avoid accruing any interest on tax accounts.

Rose's office began collecting 2009 taxes in August. More than 45 percent of Duplin taxpayers paid their tax bills by the early cutoff of Aug. 31, earning a discount on their bills.

"About like last year. We give a 2 percent discount, and most of your mortgage companies try to pay, a lot of our larger companies pay and some people pay," Rose said.

The tax office is charged with collecting about $23 million in taxes this year, assuming a 100 percent collection rate. For people who did not pay their bill by the deadline, it will cost more and more to pay the amount as the interest on the account builds up.

"The interest starts on Jan. 6 and it's 2 percent," Rose said.

People who own property in Duplin County have to pay the regular property tax, the registered motor vehicle tax and any Schedule V or privilege license tax. Some counties collect an occupancy tax or liquor tax, but the Duplin County tax office does not handle those specific taxes directly.

If people have difficulty paying their taxes, they should contact the tax office as soon as possible. Workers at the office might be able to help set up a payment arrangement or fee schedule over a set period of time to allow people to pay their taxes even if a lump sum payment is out of the question.

"If they're having a problem paying their bill, they need to call us," Rose said.

The payment arrangement varies based on the individual case, but without any contact from a taxpayer, the office will take steps against the person. Delinquency bills are being sent out a few days after the deadline.

If a late bill is not paid, then the county will follow along up with forced collections, garnishing wages or other ways of forcing people to pay. If a person is having difficulty paying a single lump sum, then it may be possible to break the bill down into smaller sections so that the property owner only has to pay a smaller amount every month until it is paid off.

"That's something we try to work out if they're having problems," Rose said.

Under most payment arrangement schedules, the county will seek to get payment in full by June.

Besides mailing and dropping payments off in person, it is also possible to pay the Duplin County tax bill online, or to pay over the phone via a credit card.

The property tax rate in Duplin County, at 69 cents per $100 valuation, is the lowest rate the county has set since 1987, when it was also set at 69 cents. The lowest tax rate for the county since 1974 was 61 cents in 1986.