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Procrastination, days off lead to long lines at tax office

POSTED: December 9, 2008 5:00 a.m.
SARA GUEVARA/The Times

Lead tag clerk Judy McClure helps Dong Tran, left, a machine operator from Gainesville, fill out a check to pay property taxes Monday at the Hall County tax commissioner's office. Monday was the deadline to pay property taxes in Hall County without incurring penalties.

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Those who paid their property taxes Monday most likely were greeted with a long line of like-minded procrastinators.

At the tax commissioner’s office in downtown Gainesville, Hall County residents formed a line down the hall to turn in their property tax payments, which were due Monday.

Tax Commissioner Keith Echols said the crowd was bigger than it usually is on the due date.

"We got a long line waiting to pay taxes, and they’re faxing stuff in and phones are ringing and everything," Echols said.

Echols thinks a few factors contributed to the large crowds.

"It just seems like this year with the economy the way it’s been ... people not having the money to pay early probably is another reason (the line is) so long."

Hall County offices were closed Wednesday, the day before Thanksgiving, as part of a new mandatory furlough for all county employees.

Echols said he thinks many people likely did not realize that his office would be closed the extra day, leaving only two days for people to pay taxes last week.

"That day having to take off last Wednesday was rough. Thursday and Friday was bad enough, but having to take Wednesday off because of that furlough day made it worse," Echols said.

Reuben Brock said he was unaware of the Wednesday furlough.

"I came in twice (last week) and they were closed," Brock said while waiting in line Monday at the downtown tax office. "It was inconvenient for me."

But Judy Ciccarone, also waiting in line Monday to pay her taxes, said she expected the tax commissioner’s office to be closed around Thanksgiving.

"I know they weren’t going to be open then," Ciccarone said, even though she was not aware of the furlough.

Some of the people waiting to pay taxes Monday said the due date crept up on the heels of Thanksgiving, making it easy to forget.

Betty Allen said she usually likes to pay her taxes early, but was waiting in line at the tax commissioner’s office Monday after realizing the due date had arrived.

"Until I got the paper this morning I had forgotten," Allen said.

Brock said though he did not intend to pay his taxes on the last day, he thinks a lot of people do it intentionally.

"A lot of people hold their money," he said.

Nimisha Patel said she likes to pay her property taxes in two parts, and always pays the remaining amount on the last day.

"That way you don’t have to pay a whole lump at the end of the year," she said.

Benito Bonilla Guzman said Monday while waiting in line that he prefers to pay his tax bill with a credit card to "keep the cash for an emergency."

Taxes were due Monday, and Echols said a 1 percent interest rate will be added every month until the balance is paid. After 90 days, 10 percent interest will be charged.

"As long as everything is postmarked (Dec. 1), there will be no interest," Echols said.



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