Nobody likes paying taxes, especially when money is tight.
Because the economy is so hard on everyone, Tax Commissioner Keith Echols predicts that up to 25 percent of taxes will be delinquent this year.
In a typical year, Echols said 10 percent to 15 percent of taxes are expected to be delinquent, meaning insufficient payments cannot be rectified by the Dec. 1 due date.
Echols told the Hall County Board of Commissioners he thinks this year, anywhere from 15 percent to 25 percent of taxpayers won’t pay their bills on time.
"I hope I’m wrong," Echols said.
Echols said he is aware that many people will be strapped for cash this year, and he is willing to help people pay in increments.
"I do work with people," Echols said. "We’re having some partial payments coming in now."
He said many people choose not to pay their taxes all at once, so he is accepting smaller payments through the due date.
After March 1, Echols said he asks people to come to his office to work out a payment plan. This year, 200 did so.
Expecting lower revenue from tax collections, the Board of Commissioners recently approved a decision to furlough all employees one day a month.
"If we don’t get that revenue, we won’t have the money to pay those operating expenses," Echols said. "That’s going to hurt the county budget."
The furlough requires county employees to take one day off without pay every month, which will save the county roughly $1.7 million on operating costs, but come at the cost of a nearly 5 percent salary reduction for employees.
But having late or even nonpayment of property taxes is nothing new. Even bounced checks is something Echols said his office has to deal with every year, with an average of 280 checks for property tax payments returned annually.
Because that number likely will go up this year, Hall County will begin using an outside service to deal with returned checks.
The county will work with a company called TigerTranz to handle getting the money. The service will cost nothing to the county because the company generates its revenues from those who issued the bad checks.
"If a check comes back returned ... they will try two additional times to process that through the person’s bank account before they actually return it to us," Hall County Purchasing Manager Tim Sims said. "Once it gets to that point where they return it to us, then TigerTranz will pick up the checks and do their best to get the money back for us. It’s sort of like a collection agency. In 30 days after they’ve had the check, they guarantee up to $150 per check back to us in 30 days. If it’s over $150 they will try to get the balance of that."
TigerTranz sends out three letters with 14 days between each. They will work on getting payment for three to four months. If their efforts are unsuccessful, then TigerTranz will send the checks back to the county to begin legal proceedings.
Sims said TigerTranz will be helpful this year because it will efficiently collect on returned checks at no cost to the county.
"They charge a fee for the returned checks to the person they’re collecting from," Sims said.
Echols said it also will be helpful because it will allow county employees to concentrate on other business.
"We will not receive the returned checks at all," Echols said. "It frees up my personnel to do other things."
Sims said the county decided to work with TigerTranz this year because not only are they expecting more returned checks but because having a guaranteed $150 per returned check will help the county at a time when revenues are low.
Tax bills were mailed Sept. 26 and are due by Dec. 1. After that date, a 1 percent interest is levied every month the payment is late. If the bill still has not been paid by March 1, then a 10 percent penalty is added.