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Regardless of virus, property taxes still due

By submitted, 04/30/20 1:59 PM

LITTLE ROCK – If you’re like many people, you may not think about assessing your personal property until one of two things happens: it’s time to renew your vehicle tags, or it’s time to pay property taxes.

That’s especially true right now, when the novel coronavirus has turned the world upside down. In the days of pandemic and economic uncertainty, property assessment is the last thing on anyone’s mind.

But the deadline is still in place. With all of the other topsy-turviness happening right now, the last thing you want is to miss the date and be charged a fee for late assessment.

At 10 percent, that fee may not be much, but it’s still money out of your pocket that you’d rather keep. But the deadline is easy to forget. In fact, when is it? (It’s May 31.)

You can begin assessing for the current year anytime after January 1. Counties tell us that a lot of people assess their property in the first few weeks of the year, because they remember then.

But when February slides into March, it has slipped down your priority list. When the virus hit our state – or your county – other worries occupied your mind. By April, you barely remembered that you were supposed to assess. In May, it will never cross your mind.

So May 31 will come and go, and as we readjust to whatever “normal” is this summer, you’ll suddenly discover those late fees.

This year, May 31 is a Sunday. That gives you an extra day of grace: you have until the next business day, June 1, to assess your personal property.

We’ll leave all the intricacies of the law up to the attorneys, but in a nutshell, property owners are to assess between January 1 and May 31. New residents or new businesses established between those dates, or new property acquired between those dates, should be assessed within 30 days of acquisition. Of course, property acquired during the month of May should be assessed immediately to beat the May 31 deadline.

Why May 31? Why does it really matter?

As soon as that May 31 deadline passes, the county assessor has a major task: by July 31, the assessor must prepare the county’s tax books. By August 1, the assessor has to deliver the assessment abstract to the State Equalization Board. Through that process, the county calculates its total assessment of taxes due – which is vital for preparing budgets.

This year, as everyone is taking a financial hit from the health crisis, that’s even more important.

Somebody out there is saying, “I don’t use the library, and I don’t have kids in school – in fact, I pay tuition for them to attend private school, so I’m paying twice.”

Nobody likes taxes, especially property taxes. We understand that.

Ever called 911 for an ambulance or fire truck? Wished a deputy sheriff would stop those reckless kids that speed down your street? Do you drive on public roads? Those are your property taxes working for you. Everyone benefits – even you!

So, mark your calendar. Set phone reminders. Write it in lipstick on the bathroom mirror. Stick a note on your refrigerator. Or just call your assessor or go online today.

County collectors began accepting tax payments on March 1, so that’s a great opportunity to assess, too – pay the 2019 taxes early and assess for 2020, during the same visit to the courthouse or the same time you’re online.

Please note that many counties have currently closed their courthouses to the public for health and safety. Because of social distancing guidelines during the COVID-19 outbreak, all counties are encouraging residents to conduct business by phone or online. The health situation is constantly changing, so check your county’s status and any health directives before you leave your home.