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Paying property tax helps everyone

By submitted, 09/23/20 1:57 PM

LITTLE ROCK – You’ve probably already seen reminders of the upcoming deadline for property taxes. But why does it matter?

Property taxes affect your county, but failure to pay them? That affects your own finances.

Let’s talk about it.

Your local county government uses that income to pay for … well, everything. Roads, schools, emergency services, libraries – the list goes on. In fact, if you examine your tax statement, you can see how your taxes are divided for the county’s budget.

Counties also receive funds from sales tax, business personal property taxes, and a handful of other sources. But each county develops its budget by considering historic and anticipated revenue. That means that unpaid taxes can impact the county’s budget, which in turn could affect county services.

We know this has been a difficult year for most Arkansans. From the massive societal disruptions brought by COVID-19, to civil unrest and weather disasters, 2020 has brought drama and trauma into our lives. Or at least our living rooms.

But during all of this year’s struggles, hospitals and ambulances had to continue operations – and were more vital than ever. Although there was less traffic in many places while jobs and schools were closed, roads still had to be maintained, or even needed major repairs due to disasters.

And like it or not, schools have reopened in various capacities.

Counties are relying on each of us who own real or personal property, to help those services continue.

It’s not a guilt trip. Just a statement of fact. We understand that many people are struggling, but we encourage anyone who can pay property taxes to do so.

Eventually, some counties have told us, they will collect almost 100 percent of assessed real property taxes. Eventually. But when those taxes are delinquent, it impacts the owner.

When the calendar ticks over to October 16, taxes become delinquent and a penalty is automatically applied. Depending on how long those taxes remain delinquent, more penalties and interest accrue. Someday we’ll talk more about delinquency and certification to the Commissioner of State Lands office, but the bottom line? That bottom line keeps increasing.

For example, an owner redeemed a piece of property earlier this year that was three years delinquent. The taxes owed were $359, but interest, penalties and other costs added another $133. So the owner had to come up with almost $500, all at one time, instead of roughly $120 each year.

We don’t want that to happen to you. We don’t want you to be worried about the extra money, the deadlines, expiring petitions, and pending sales of property. That’s why we encourage people to pay taxes by the Oct. 15 deadline.

If you’re already a year behind, don’t throw up your hands in despair. Get that one year’s taxes paid, and then start making partial payments on what’s currently due, to prevent it from being certified to this office.

It helps you.

It helps your county.

It matters.