Many people are reluctant to turn over their hard-earned dollars to pay taxes of any kind, but in the last week of 2017, some were walking, running, mailing or using the internet to prepay their 2018 property taxes before the federal tax law took effect Jan. 1.
The sweeping federal Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, passed by the Republican Congress and signed by the president Dec. 22, caps property tax deductions at $10,000.
However, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie signed Executive Order 237 on Dec. 27, ordering municipalities to accept payments for 2018 property taxes in calendar year 2017.
Ventnor offered a caveat on the city website: “Taxpayers should know the IRS could decide that prepayments made before the first of the year will not reduce their tax liability on 2017 taxes, payable to the IRS on or before April 15, 2018.”
Ventnor, which offered extended tax collection services 9 a.m.-1 p.m. Saturday, Dec. 30, was the only Downbeach municipality to do so.
According to Ventnor Tax Collector Margaret Pacanowski, it was busy throughout the week, so there was no mad dash on Saturday.
“We held special hours as a courtesy to taxpayers. We took in $53,115 on Saturday,” she said.
Some people were unsure how much of their 2018 taxes they could deduct, so they paid for the entire year, she said.
“We took in more this year than ever before,” Pacanowski said.
In December, Ventnor collected $4,055,307 in prepaid taxes, up from $910,752 last year.
Even those who have tax payment services through their mortgage company were paying in advance, and calling their mortgage companies to make the adjustment, she said.
Margate Tax Collector Linda Morgan said last week was as busy as when quarterly taxes are due on the first day of February, May, August and November.
“Normally it’s a very quiet week between Christmas and New Year’s, when many employees take off,” Morgan said. “We made it through the week with just two of us.”
Shen said the city did not have extended hours, but officials made sure to check the mail drop box at the Municipal Building on Saturday to see if there were any payments dropped off.
The city collected more than $6 million in prepaid taxes in December, up from $400,000 during the same time frame in 2016.
Longport Chief Financial Officer Jenna Kelly stepped in to do tax collections last week when the tax collector was out sick.
“It was busy with the new tax laws taking effect and people paying early,” Mayor Nicholas Russo said at Tuesday’s commission meeting. “But Jenna stepped up to help out.”
Kelly said the borough brought in $900,000 on Thursday, Dec. 28 and $500,000 on Friday.
“We cannot close out the year until the end of the week to allow for mail payments postmarked before Dec. 31, 2017.
According to a statement issued by the IRS Dec. 27, prepayments of anticipated real estate taxes that have not been assessed before 2018 are not deductible in 2018.
“State or local law determines whether and when a property tax is assessed, which is generally when the taxpayer becomes liable for the property tax imposed,” the statement said.