Partial payment program increase partially offset

By RICK NORTON

Posted 12/11/17

With less than two days remaining in the first enrollment period for the partial payment program, the Bradley County Trustee’s Office had recorded a total of 1,379 parcels.That compares to 1,336 …

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Partial payment program increase partially offset

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With less than two days remaining in the first enrollment period for the partial payment program, the Bradley County Trustee’s Office had recorded a total of 1,379 parcels.

That compares to 1,336 parcels on file at the launch of the signup in late October. 

The number of new registrations would have been much higher, but this year the program has been beset by a large number of parcels removed from the rolls due to home sales and the deaths of elderly taxpayers, according to Mike Smith, trustee.

As of noon Thursday — about 1½ days before the registration cutoff for the first period; the deadline was Friday at 5 p.m. — the Trustee’s Office had signed up 51 new parcels.

“We have lost a higher number than usual due to deaths and home sales,” Smith said. “The second sign-up period is usually the most active, so I will go out on a limb and say we will hit somewhere around 1,440.”

The second open enrollment for 2018 taxes — whose first payment will be due March 15 — begins Wednesday, Jan. 3, and will continue through Friday, Feb. 9.

For those Bradley County taxpayers who are still new to the partial payment program, it is an almost 8-year-old initiative that allows home and property owners to pay their taxes in installments as opposed to the annual lump-sum payment that often drains the resources of local residents on limited or fixed incomes.

Many local taxpayers currently enrolled in partial payment are elderly, and a number of them live almost exclusively off Social Security income. For this group, partial payment allows homeowners to pay their taxes in smaller monthly chunks, or even quarterly or twice a year.

The frequency of payment depends on a negotiated plan between the Trustee’s Office and the individual taxpayer.

A partial payment plan for county residents was launched in 2010 after approval from the Tennessee Comptroller’s Office and the Bradley County Commission.

“The partial payment plan was made possible by taxpayers — many of them elderly — who came to us almost eight years ago and asked us to consider options that would make it easier for them to pay their taxes,” Smith explained. “In many cases, when taxpayers retire they lose some spending power because of fixed incomes.”

Of the payment frequencies available, monthly is the most popular among partial payment taxpayers, Smith said.

As an example of how it works, if a parcel’s property taxes are set at $500 per year, the smaller monthly payment would be about $42. Taxes can be paid by check, credit card, debit card, cash or automatic withdrawal. Residents can pay their taxes by sending their checks in the mail or by dropping in the trustee’s temporary office currently located in the former SouthEast Bank building at the corner of 17th and Keith streets.

Details about the partial payment program, or other tax-related options, can be obtained by visiting the Trustee’s Office or by calling 423-728-7248.

Trustee’s Office hours of operation are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Thursday, and 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m. on Friday.

The Trustee’s operation will remain in the old SouthEast Bank location through the taxpaying season. It was relocated due to the recent fire that damaged the Bradley County Courthouse. Cleanup and repairs to the Courthouse — which is currently empty of all government operations — are still underway.

Two additional tax programs operated by the Trustee’s Office include the tax relief and tax freeze plans. A description of each is reprinted below. Questions about either or both should be directed to the Trustee’s Office.

Tax Relief Program:

This is a state tax-relief initiative that pays a portion of the property taxes for elderly residents and disabled individuals who meet certain eligibility requirements.

The Tax Relief Program pays these amounts, according to information provided by Smith’s office:

• Up to $115 for eligible property owners who live within the Cleveland city limits;

• Up to $142 for eligible property owners who live outside the fire fringe limits;

• Up to $143 for eligible property owners who live inside the fire fringe limits; and

• Up to $33 for eligible property owners who live within the Charleston city limits.

Those eligible for the Tax Relief option must be 65 or older by Dec. 31, 2017, or a disabled homeowner; must own and use the property as a primary residence; and must have a maximum 2016 income for applicant, spouse and all owners of the property of no more than $29,180.

Application deadline for 2017 is April 5, 2018. 

For detailed information on required documentation and identification, contact the Trustee’s Office.

Tax Freeze Program:

The Tax Freeze Program was adopted by the Bradley County Commission in August 2007, to help control property tax increases for property owners age 65 and older whose income does not exceed an income limit set by the state, Smith explained.

According to Trustee’s Office literature, “The tax is frozen at the tax amount for the year the property owner initially qualifies for the program. The tax amount will not increase as long as the property owner meets the eligibility requirements, and there are no improvements to the property.”

Eligibility requirements for the 2017 Tax Freeze Program include: Must be 65 or older on or before Dec. 31, 2017; must own and use the property as a primary residence; and maximum 2016 income for applicant, spouse and all owners of the property must not exceed $32,130. 

Like the Tax Relief Program, Cleveland and Bradley County residents should contact the Trustee’s Office for detailed information.

To best serve Bradley County taxpayers, it is recommended they make a phone call to the Trustee’s Office first before making a personal visit, in order to understand the types of documentation and identification to bring for each taxpayer program sign-up.


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