Counties educate residents on possible early tax payments

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County tax collection departments around Northern California are alerting the public about their option to pay their property taxes before the end of the year to avoid potential drawbacks of the new Republican tax plan.

Many people are seeking to make the payment early after the Republican-controlled Congress passed a tax bill earlier this month that placed a $10,000 limit on deductions for state and local taxes starting in 2018. The deduction was previously unlimited.

The IRS confirmed today that those who pre-pay their second property tax installments before Dec. 31 may claim a deduction for that pre-payment on their 2017 tax return in certain circumstances.

Whether a taxpayer is allowed a deduction for the pre-payment of the local taxes in 2017 depends on whether the taxpayer makes the payment in 2017 and the real property taxes are assessed prior to 2018.

The second tax installments are not due until Feb. 1, 2018, and are delinquent after April 10, 2018.

Santa Clara and Santa Cruz counties are among those that have sent out media advisories clarifying that taxpayers may pay their second installment early, but noting there is no option to pre-pay property taxes for 2018/2019 and beyond.

The reasoning behind this rule is that property taxes are based on assessments done by each county and change with the real estate market each year.

Margaret Olaiya with the Santa Clara County Department of Tax and Collections said that their building was fairly quiet until Friday, but the number of citizens lined up to pay began to increase Tuesday and reached between approximately 150 and 200 people today.

Santa Cruz County spokesman Jason Hoppin said that there was a line outside of the collections office Tuesday, which he said is totally unheard of for paying property taxes.

"People are coming in wanting to pay their property taxes for the next five years," Hoppin said. "It's just not possible because we don't know what the estimate for their taxes will be, it's a year-by-year basis."

Payments of the second installments can be made online, through the mail or in person. Information for specific counties can be found through their respective website.