Tax offices seeing usual end-of-year rush

A customer pays his taxes at the Clay County Tax Assessor's office Wednesday afternoon.
Staff Writer

The new tax law signed by President Donald Trump is getting lots of national attention, especially in the way it's changing some taxpayers' behavior at the end of the year.

Among other things, because property tax deductions will be capped when the new law takes effect at the start of 2019, some property owners in high tax areas are paying taxes early so they can get what amounts to a double deduction when they file this year's taxes next April.

But that cap -- $10,000 for individual property owners -- isn't having a major impact at local property tax offices because few taxpayers would top that threshold.

"That property tax cap will have more of an impact in places like New Jersey where taxes on a home can run $15,000," said tax consultant Bruce Henderson. "In North Mississippi, the change would be minimal on individuals."

For Clay County Tax Assessor Paige Lamkin, it all means business as usual, although that means busy as the year closes out.

"We always get a rush at the end of December. We have those people who want to pay their taxes before the year is out so they can deduct in this year. Others pay after the first. But this is one of our two big rushes, the end of the year and when the tax deadline comes at the end of February," Lamkin said.

The county has $198 million in assessed value with $153 million of that taxable. That translates into about $8.9 million in property taxes.

For counties, the end of the year rush is good because it helps get money in the bank to meet operating expenses after the slow revenue months of late fall and early winter.

The rush is a little more hectic this week because county offices were closed Monday and Tuesday for Christmas. Throw in people needing to renew their license plates before the end of the month and the traffic gets pretty steady at the counter at Lamkin's office.

"We get customers through as fast as we can. We just ask that they be patient if we get a back up. We aren't dragging our feet. Some things just take longer than others," said Lamkin, who is about to enter her seventh year in office.

"I don't know anyone who likes paying taxes,  For the most part, people understand."

As for getting ready for this week and tax season in general, Lamkin says preparation is simple.

"You know it's coming so you just have to be ready for it. There's no way to really prepare because you don't know how many people are going to come in when and how much property they have," she said.

"But my staff understands that. It's crunch time for the next three months or so," she added.