LUMBERTON — Although Robeson County’s economy may still be sluggish and its unemployment rate only showing slight improvement, more and more residents are making sure their property taxes are paid without penalty.
With today being the last day that real and property taxes for 2011 can be paid without interest, Cindy Lowry, the county’s tax administrator, said Wednesday that for the past week taxpayers have been lining up to pay their taxes and provide tax officials with their yearly listing of real and personal property.
Lowry said that as of Dec. 30, the county was ahead of its tax collections by 0.92 percent over the last day of 2010.
“The total we have collected overall during the current fiscal year is 67.65 percent,” Lowry said.
Lowry noted that the percentage of taxpayers paying over the past decade has risen from the mid-80s to the low-90s. She said that by June 30, the end of the current fiscal year, she expects to collect at least 92 percent of all real estate, motor vehicle and public service taxes due to the county in 2011, which would be an improvement over the overall 90.41 percent collection rate in 2010.
“It’s hard to project what the final collection rate will be,” Lowry said. “I’m hoping it will be at least 92 percent, but I’d really like to see more.”
Property owners who do not pay their 2011 taxes by the end of today will pay an additional 2 percent for the first overdue month and 3/4 of a percent each month afterward that the balance is unpaid. Those taxpayers paying by mail will not receive a penalty if the envelope is marked before Jan. 6.
Interest rates paid on taxes are set by the state.
Lowry said that the final overdue notices will probably be sent out to taxpayers on Jan. 13 or Jan. 17. Although tax officials can start taking action to collect back taxes, including garnishing wages and bank attachments as of Friday, as a “courtesy” that won’t happen until after taxpayers receive their final notice, Lowry said.
“The first ones on the list to have actions taken against them, if there are any, will be county and state employees who owe taxes,” the administrator said.
Jan. 1 also marked the beginning of the yearly listing period for real and personal property. Listings must be made by Jan. 31, except for businesses that can get an extension of up to April 15 to file if they submit a written request by the January deadline. There is a 10 percent late listing penalty for taxpayers failing to meet the deadline.
Among the items that people need to list are all changes to their properties, mobile homes, unlicensed vehicles, farm and business equipment, and dogs.
The county sent out listing forms to all taxpayers, which on the backside listed what programs and services are provided by the Tax Office.
“These forms are mostly for educational purposes,” Lowry said. “We want people to know what services are available to them.”
Lowry said that people who have questions about listings or or need help with tax payment arrangements should contact the Tax Office during January.
“I like to call January the magical month,” Lowry said. “We can help people then, but if they wait until February there’s often not much we can do to help.”
Reach staff writer Bob Shiles at 910-272-6117 or email@example.com.