Residents rush to Hamilton County Trustee's Office to pay property taxes

Residents rush to Hamilton County Trustee's Office to pay property taxes

December 28th, 2017 by Judy Walton in Local Regional News

In this 2015 file photo, Bill Hullander enjoys a laugh at the American Cancer Society's "Making Strides Against Breast Cancer" event.

Photo by Contributed Photo /Times Free Press.

To learn more

Pay Hamilton County property taxes online at www.hamiltontn.gov/Trustee. Info on property tax relief for seniors and the disabled is atwww.hamiltontn.gov/trustee/faqs.aspx

Pay by check in room 210 of the Hamilton County Courthouse, at the Bonny Oaks annex, 6125 Preservation Drive, or at any First Tennessee Bank branch.

(The Hamilton County Trustee’s Office also collects property taxes for local municipalities except Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain and Chattanooga.)

Pay Chattanooga property taxes online at www.chattanooga.gov/finance. Learn more about Chattanooga’s property tax freeze for seniors at www.chattanooga.gov/finance/treasury-division/property-tax-freeze-and-relief-programs

Most folks like to wait as late as possible to write their property tax checks.

But not this year.

On Wednesday, people stood in line and phones rang constantly in the Hamilton County Trustee's Office as people tried to get property taxes paid before the year ends, so they can deduct them on their 2017 federal returns.

A federal tax reform bill passed by Congress and signed last week by President Donald Trump curbs the longstanding deduction for state and local property and sales taxes that local homeowners pay.

How much sales tax could you claim?

Visit www.irs.gov/credits-deductions/individuals/sales-tax-deduction-calculator

Starting Jan. 1, people who itemize deductions on their income tax returns won't be able to claim more than $10,000 for property and sales taxes paid. (People who don't keep receipts can take a sales tax deduction based on their income.)

So a lot of folks are trying to get in under the wire, even though they'd need to own an $800,000 house and pay both Hamilton County and Chattanooga taxes to go above that $10,000 ceiling.

Trustee Bill Hullander said the phone calls started Friday. On Wednesday, after the Christmas holiday, he was fielding phone calls with two staff workers while three others waited on walk-in customers.

"I looked and they're lined up down the hall. It kind of makes me think of February 28," said, referring to the annual property tax payment deadline.

Hullander said people must get their checks in to his office — or to any First Tennessee bank branch — no later than 4 p.m. Friday if they want to deduct their property taxes on their 2017 returns. The trustee's office also collects property taxes for other towns and cities in the county except Lookout Mountain, Signal Mountain and Chattanooga.

He said it's no use trying to prepay 2018 taxes — the office can't accept those before Tuesday, after the start of the new year.

But that won't matter to most folks, he said. The new tax law also doubles the standard deduction and is expected to mean fewer people will need to itemize their taxes to get the best deal.

Chattanooga city spokeswoman Marissa Bell said things were less frantic at the city treasurer's office Wednesday, with a handful of people coming in to pay taxes.

Local certified public accountant John Houston said the deduction limit applies to taxes on property that previously would be deducted from Schedule A. That could include a primary residence, second home or time share, and possibly investment property if it doesn't generate income.

Taxes on income-producing property, such as rental houses, are calculated on a different schedule, Houston said.

"The bottom line is, you need to pay the taxes on your house, but not on your commercial building, by the end of the year."

He said the only clients he has advised to pay early are those who have a lot of property, or who had large incomes in 2017 and need to take the deduction.

Contact staff writer Judy Walton at jwalton@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6416.