Calhoun County residents owe more than $1 million in delinquent property taxes from last year, a fact hammered home by notices published earlier this week.
Calhoun County Revenue Commissioner Karen Roper said her office has collected most of the approximately $43.5 million in property taxes owed for 2014. Still, hundreds of residents became delinquent on their taxes Jan. 1 and owe a total of about $1.2 million.
The revenue commission office published delinquency notices in Sunday’s edition of The Anniston Star.
Roper said the delinquent taxes owed are a large sum but not out of the ordinary for the county.
“The amount is pretty much average … we expect it every year,” Roper said.
Roper noted that her office has not experienced a rush of activity since it began issuing delinquency notices in January.
“It’s not super busy during this time,” Roper said Tuesday morning. “We have maybe five or six customers a day.”
Cleburne County Revenue Commissioner Joyce Fuller said her office is also dealing with an average amount of delinquent property taxes this year. Fuller said taxes are delinquent on 39 properties for 2014, as opposed to 55 properties for 2013 and 41 properties for 2012.
“There’s not a huge amount of difference … and typically they are some of the same people,” Fuller said.
Avoidance of paying property taxes is not cheap.
County property taxes are due between Oct. 1 and Dec. 31 each year. After that the taxes become delinquent and accrue 1 percent interest for each month they’re not paid. Property owners still delinquent after February must also pay a $5 fee to help cover the commission office’s mailing costs for unpaid tax notices. Delinquent taxpayers are also required to pay the cost of their notice every month its advertised in local publications.
If property owners don’t pay their taxes by May, their properties are auctioned off, Roper said.
“Every year we have to auction 700-plus properties at our tax sale … that’s average,” Roper said.
Roper said that if a resident’s property is purchased in auction, that resident still has the following three years to reacquire it.
“They have to make an application with the purchaser and redeem it,” Roper said. “The person who bought the property can’t keep it if the taxpayer wants it back.”
Fuller said residents have a variety of reasons why they don’t pay their property taxes on time, including sickness and divorce.
“Most of ours, though, are because they are short on income,” Fuller said. “Property taxes come at an inconvenient time … you have all the holidays with Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.”
Roper said property owners who are struggling to pay their taxes can arrange monthly payment plans with her office. Such plans require owners to pay 25 percent of their tax bills per month. Roper said residents should consider using such a plan to avoid accruing too much interest.
“If they haven’t paid it all by January and then it still has interest, they’ll have to pay that interest off first,” she said.