Summit County treasurer received $6.5 million in property tax prepayments in December
January 4, 2018
Summit County received about $6.5 million in property tax prepayments from 1,600 properties during the December rush to get ahead of the new state and local deduction limits in the recently signed Republican tax bill. By comparison, the treasurer received less than a million dollars last December from 250 properties.
The treasurer's office is still processing submitted prepayments, and is still receiving more prepayments mailed in over the New Year holiday weekend.
"We've been very busy in the office, that's for sure," said Summit County Treasurer Bill Wallace.
"Our mailbox has been packed. When I went to the post office yesterday, we picked up checks from over 200 properties. This is very unusual."
Wallace also said that his office has fallen a bit behind on its other work while trying to process the prepayments, which can involve a fair amount of research, as well as cutting refund checks for overpayments, which will amount to about $64,000 and be sent out within the next few weeks. The treasurer's office has also been busy creating tax statements for Summit properties, which will be issued to homeowners next week.
Overpayments are one of several types of mistakes homeowners have made in the rush to prepay. Wallace said that his office had received a number of irregular and incomplete prepayments. "We've seen a few people mail in checks with no identifying information, even an address. Someone sent us a check for $9,700 payable to the treasurer, but no other information. So we've had to send those back."
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He also recalled a person submitting a check for $34 for a tax bill of $22,000. "We hope those folks know that they have $21,000 and change still due."
He said his office was inundated with questions about everything from the deduction limits to how the prepayments will affect escrow accounts. Much of the confusion is based on conflicting information homeowners received from their different accountants. Some property owners came into the treasurer's office on Jan. 2, trying to make prepayments for 2017, arguing that since Dec. 31 fell on a weekend the deadline should be extended into the new year.
"I've had to tell them, 'I'm not your accountant, and I don't work for the IRS.' Some of those questions we really can't help with," Wallace said.
As far as what will happen with all the money that came in, Deputy Treasurer Ryne Scholl set the record straight on some misconceptions.
"The county doesn't keep all that money and use it throughout the year," he said. "The county itself is required to distribute that money to the tax districts by the end of this month. Of that $5-to-6 million, we'd only keep about 27 percent, or about $1.5 million." He added that it is still a significant jump from last January, when the county kept just under $270,000 after distribution.
Scholl added that there are other problems that need to be sorted out going forward, such as voided and cancelled checks by people whose accountants told them that the prepayment won't be effective for the 2017 tax rules. Looking back at a chaotic December, Scholl concludes it was a result of a lack of concrete information all around.
"A bunch of people (were) hearing a lot of opinions, hoping we could provide them with some information," he said. "But unfortunately the IRS will be the ones making the final determination."
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