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Pre-payment of West Virginia’s 2018 county property taxes not permissible

By JESSICA FARRISH

The Register-Herald

BECKLEY, W.Va.  — Tis the season — for taxes, that is.

Changes on the national level mean that affluent property owners may benefit if they pay their fourth quarter state estimates and remaining taxes before the end of the year.

But one county clerk cautions that that advice doesn’t pertain to county property taxes.

On the federal level, The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act becomes effective in 2018. Recently passed by Congress and signed into law by President Donald Trump, the act is the most comprehensive piece of federal tax legislation since the Tax Reform Act of 1986, according to financial experts.

Beginning in 2018, combined deductions for state and local income, sales and property taxes will be capped at $10,000, and an existing standard deduction is nearly doubled.

Any remaining 2017 personal property taxes paid in 2018 will contribute towards the $10,000 cap on itemized deductions for 2018, according to tax experts.

The tax law change has led some property owners to call county assessors and ask if they can pay their 2018 property taxes in advance, but state law forbids the payment of 2018 taxes prior to July 15, 2018.

“We’ve had people asking if they could pay ahead, but they can’t pay any taxes for 2018 because the taxes haven’t been assessed, yet,” Greenbrier County Assessor Joe Darnell said Wednesday. “We’ve had three calls today of people wanting to pay their taxes, and was probably three or four yesterday.

“I guess in some states you can do that. In West Virginia, you cannot.”

Under West Virginia law, county sheriffs issue property tax bills, or “tickets,” on or after July 15 of the property tax year. (Only public utility operating property is excluded, and the state auditor issues those tax bills in June of the property tax year.)

Property taxes levied for the property are payable in two installments. The first is due by September 1 of the property tax year, and the second installment is due March 1 of the next calendar year.

Darnell said it’s not only against state law for a county to collect taxes prior to the issuance of tax bills, it’s also impossible.

“The commissioners don’t set the tax rate, usually, until about March,” Darnell said. “It’s well after the first of the year.

“But a gentleman called and said, ‘I’m just going to send a check in, for the same as (the taxes) were for last year.’

“He hoped they’d be the same,” Darnell said. “We told him the tax office would send it back to him.

“I guess he’s wanting to get rid of that money somehow, before the start of the year, but, unfortunately, they can’t pay their taxes.”

• • •

Matheny and Company AC president Cam Matheny told MetroNews radio network that if a client is able to pay fourth-quarter state estimates and remaining taxes before the end of the year, they should do so to possibly get a higher deduction.

“If they carry that over into 2018, they may lose it either because of the limitations of $10,000 total or they may not be able to use it because their standard deductions been doubled, and it just won’t benefit them anymore,” Matheny told MetroNews.

While the last payment for 2017 state estimates is not due until Jan. 15, 2018, Matheny said if people already pay any related amounts, accountants will be able to include the payment when they consider itemized deductions for 2017.

“We’re letting our clients know that you have to pay this anyway, and you’re basically paying two weeks early,” he noted. “Let’s go ahead and get it done to be on the safe side.”

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