Jeanne Whiddon: Understanding your tax bill
Q. When should Routt County residents expect to see their tax bills in the mail? What information is on it?
A. Tax notices will be mailed sometime between Wednesday and Friday. Taxpayers should look for them to arrive no later than the end of the month. If you do not receive your bill within a reasonable number of days after Friday, please let our office know and we can arrange for you to get a duplicate. If we have an incorrect address in our files, we can correct that with a simple signed request from you.
We encourage you to read it when your bill arrives, and we are always happy to hear from you if there is anything you don’t understand. I will highlight the key areas of the tax bill:
n Near the top of the front is a listing of the taxing authorities and their mill levies that translate into the total tax amount due. The taxpayer’s total mill levy is shown here, as well.
n To the right are the actual (market) value and the assessed value of your land, residence, etc.
n Lower down is the legal description of your property and a situs (location) address if we have one.
n To the right of the legal address is your payment schedule. You may choose to make your payment in two parts or at one time.
n About halfway down the bill is the name of the owner of the property and the mailing address.
n The bottom two sections are coupons that you should use to remit your payment(s).
n On the back of the bill is a great deal of information that we print for the benefit of the taxpayer.
Q. What is the most frequently asked question Routt County residents have about their tax bills? What do you tell them?
A. There are several questions that we hear every year at tax bill time.
The most frequently asked question is “Why can’t you mail my tax bill to my mortgage company?” The short answer is that Colorado law mandates that the tax bill be mailed only to the owner of record of the property. To explain further why it isn’t a good idea for us to mail to lenders, mortgage companies buy and sell mortgages constantly, and we have no reasonably efficient means to keep track of these changes. It makes more sense to send the bill to the owner, who may then choose to send a copy to the lender, or allow the lender to determine their taxes over the Internet or via a tax service, both customary practices.
Another question we often hear is “How do I change the name on a tax bill?” It is a simple matter to change the mailing address; it requires only a note signed by the owner.
Changing the name of the owner of a property is more complicated. In short, it requires a deed be executed and recorded with the Routt County Clerk and Recorder’s Office at the courthouse. Neither the Treasurer’s Office nor the Clerk’s Office is permitted to offer legal advice, however we encourage taxpayers to seek professional advice from an independent source to determine the type of deed necessary in their unique situation.
Q. When are taxes due and how do you accept payments?
A. You may pay your tax bill in two payments if it is greater than $25. The due date for the first half payment is always the last day in February. This year, that day falls on a weekend, so the taxes may be paid up to the end of business on March 1. The second half will be due by the end of business on June 15. (Please note that we do not send out a second bill.) If you pay the whole bill, the due date is the end of business on April 30.
We accept checks and cash for your property taxes, as long as they are paid on time. Routt County is not set up for credit card payments.
If your taxes are delinquent, we accept checks and cash through the month of August of this year for this tax bill, but we require certified funds of a cashier’s check from Sept. 1 on.
If you need more time to pay your bill than our deadlines allow, you may choose to pay “late.” The interest on delinquent taxes accrues at the rate of 1 percent per month. We cannot, by state law, accept partial payments, installment payments, or postdated checks.
Q. What happens if you don’t pay your taxes?
A. If you do not pay your taxes, a tax lien for your property will be advertised in October, and the tax lien will be offered for sale in early November. The state law ordering our office to carry out an annual Tax Lien Sale is for the protection of the county and its taxing entities (schools, water districts, fire districts, etc.) in that it allows the county to collect the taxes from a third party.
The taxpayer does not lose the property at the time of the sale, but a tax lien is attached to it which the taxpayer has three years to pay off, (including interest and fees associated with the sale.) We publish details and property lists about the sale beginning in the fall on our Web site http://www.co.routt.co.us.
Q. Why is there an administrative fee added for taxes under $10?
A. We charge a collection fee of $5 on all tax bills under $10. The state allows us to collect this fee to cover the considerable costs associated with printing, processing, mailing and collecting tax bills with a negligible return for Routt County and its residents.
A final comment:
At the very top of the back of your tax bill is access information to reach either the Treasurer’s Office or the Assessor’s Office if you have any questions or comments. The answers I have given in this interview mention state laws several times. While it is true that many, if not all, of the policies we follow in the Treasurer’s Office are dictated by law, we also serve a very important function in Routt County: that of serving the public. If there is any way in which we can assist you in understanding your tax bill and complying with our policies, please contact us. As treasurer in a small county, I take great pride in my staff and the level of service they provide. This service is available to every taxpayer.
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