Daily Progress, Jacksonville, TX

January 4, 2013

Property tax deadline looms large

Jo Anne Embleton
Jacksonville Daily Progress

JACKSONVILLE — Cherokee County property owners have until Jan. 31 to pay property taxes penalty-free, and can do so in person, by mail or electronically, said County Tax Assessor-Collector Linda Little.

“If they mail in and as long as it's postmarked  by Jan. 31, we will accept it as a January payment without penalties,” she said. “Likewise, if someone is paying online and (her office sees a timestamp of) 11:59 p.m., we will accept as a January payment.”

Notices were sent out Oct. 1, and the department offered a three percent discount for early payment that month, decreasing to two percent in November and one percent in December. However, after Jan. 31, penalties will be applied to a property owner's bill.

In February, a late payment penalty of 7 percent will be assessed; rising to 9 percent in March, 11 percent in April, 13 percent in June and 15 percent in July.

“On July 1, however, lawyers will add another 15 percent on top of that,” Little said, adding that it behooves a person to pay immediately as possible.

In the past, taxpayers could mail or take payments to the tax assessor-collector's office at the courthouse at 135 South Main in Rusk, but in July, 2009, that office implemented the online payment system, which has been “a real life-saver,” she said.

“There's a marked increase (in electronic payments via website), and it's really cut down on walk-in and telephone traffic,” Little said. “We even have mortgage companies who go online to check (if a homeowner has paid into an escrow account for property taxes). It's just been a real life-saver.”

Because clients can log online to check or pay their taxes, “it greatly enhances the service” the office provides, as well as “leaves the staff to handle the more complicated cases,” she added. “I just love it, it's wonderful.”

Property owners can go to a direct link, www.cocherokee.org/tax, or log onto the county website (http://www.co.cherokee.tx.us) and click on the Tax Assessor-Collector link to access information about their account, using different information.

“The name and account number are the best search engines,” Little said.

Payments can be made with a major credit card (Visa, MasterCard, Discover) or a debit card; a convenience fee, assessed by the vendor, will be charged for each transaction.

In Cherokee County, the amount of property taxes paid by a home or land owner is offset by a one-half percent taxable purchase rate on items sold within the county. Funds collected go into the county's budget for general operating expenses, which in turn lowers the amount on a property owner's bill.

“Each statement shows just how much the sales tax is helping them,” Little said.

In the state of Texas, residents 65 and older or who are disabled qualify for quarterly payments with no penalty or interest assessed if these payments are received on time for homesteads. However, residents must file for the exemption through the County Appraisal District office, which administers the approval of exemptions. Those claiming the exemptions must make the first payment by Jan. 31.