Sitting on the desk of Routt County Treasurer Jeanne Whiddon is a top ten list of things people should know about their tax bills.
It might not be as witty as David Letterman's top ten lists, but Whiddon said the list answers many of the questions her office fields each year.
By the end of this week, the treasurer's office will send out close to 25,000 tax bills in Routt County; with them come the barrage of phones calls and visits to Whiddon's office. Many of those responses involve questions that are answered on the back of the property tax bill residents receive, Whiddon said.
"It's not that we don't want to talk to people. That is one of the benefits of local governments and living in a small community -- giving people personal service," Whiddon said. "But we want to spend more time on the complex problems."
The fine print written on the back of their tax bills answers the ten most frequently asked questions, Whiddon said. These include:
1. By law, Whiddon said, the treasure's office is not allowed to send a resident's tax bill to a mortgage company. The tax bills are sent to the owner listed on the deed filed at the Routt County Court House.
If taxpayers know their mortgage company will pay the bill, Whiddon advises them to send a copy of the tax bill to the company. And, often times, Whiddon said, the mortgage company already knows how much property taxes its client has to pay.
Taxpayers should not go ahead and pay the bill, fearing the mortgage company will forget, Whiddon said. If the treasurer's office is paid twice for the same tax bill, it will send back the one it received second. If the mortgage company is the second one to send the check, Whiddon said, then the taxpayer will have to go through the mortgage company to get the money back.
2. If taxes are paid in full, they must be paid by April 30, Whiddon said. The due date is listed in the front of the tax bill, and three coupons are attached: one to pay in full and two to pay in increments.
3. If taxes are paid in installments, the first due date is Monday, March 1 and the second due date is Tuesday, June 15.
4. The treasurer's office cannot accept post-dated checks or partial payments.
5. Tax bills are sent to the latest address in the clerks file. If that address has to be changed, then the taxpayer must request an address change in writing and sign that request, Whiddon said. The treasure's office in the past did take address changes over the phone, but too many mix-ups occurred, and the policy was changed, Whiddon said.
6. The treasure's office does not accept personal checks after Sept. 1. If the taxpayer has not paid their bill by Sept. 1, the treasurer's office will start advertising the property for a tax lien sale. The treasure's office does not want to run the risk of accepting a personal check, taking the property off the tax lien sale list and stopping advertisements for that property only to have the check bounce, Whiddon said. Taxes may be paid with cash.
7. If taxes are not paid, delinquent real property taxes will be advertised for a tax lien sale in October and sold in November. In November, the treasurer's office sells the tax lien, and the taxpayer has three years to pay the buyer back. The person paying off the delinquent taxes also will have to pay the interest and the cost of advertising that property. If the taxpayer does not pay the taxes after three years, the person who holds the tax lien then owns the property.
"It's a safety net. Most people do have bad times, and we don't sell the property out from under them," Whiddon said.
8. For those paying their taxes in two installments, the second half of the tax notice will not be mailed, Whiddon said.
9. Interest will be included with late payments. The interest rate starts at 1 percent the first month and increases a percentage point for every following month. If someone is paying their taxes in full and waits until May, an extra 1 percent is added. By November, the tax bill increases by 6 percent.
"One percent is not overwhelming for the average tax bill," Whiddon said.
10. For all property taxes less than $10, a $5 administrative fee is added. State law allows the treasurer's office to add the fee, Whiddon said, to help small counties recoup their administration costs.
Taxpayers should expect to see some changes in their property tax bill this year. Taxes likely will increase slightly because of a 0.3 mill levy voters approved in November for countywide museum funding.
In 2003, properties also were reassessed, which impacts the amount each property owner has to pay. Routt County Assessor Amy Williams said property value assessments were sent to property owners in May.