Pierce County homeowners and others across the country rushed in recent weeks to figure out whether they could prepay their property taxes before the end of the year.
The new federal tax bill caps deductions for state and local taxes at $10,000, which means some homeowners might be able to save if their taxes were assessed before 2018 and they were able to pay them before Jan. 1, according to the Internal Revenue Service.
But not in Pierce County or elsewhere in Washington state, Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan said.
His office has gotten more than 200 calls, visits and emails each day on the topic for the past couple weeks.
“Under our state law and under the processes that we are required to conduct, there is no way that we can accept prepayments,” he told The News Tribune on Friday.
That’s because county treasurers in Washington aren’t allowed to accept payment until the tax roll (essentially a list of property tax bills) is certified.
Lonergan said he doesn’t know of anywhere in the state where that happens before January.
Lakewood financial planner Troy Sapp said he didn’t get too many inquiries from clients about prepaying.
“Only a couple of them have asked about that, and they asked really early on, shortly after the president signed the bill (Dec. 22),” he said. “Very few people get up to the $10,000 limit. I think very few people will be affected.”
Lonergan estimated the average property tax bill for a single family residence in Pierce County in 2017 to be $3,875.
He noted the average household will see a roughly $250 increase when bills arrive in mid-February, as part of the so-called “McCleary fix.” That was state lawmakers’ answer to a state Supreme Court order to properly fund basic education.
Could treasurers have hurried up to get tax rolls certified before Jan. 1?
There are 157 different tax rates in Pierce County, which depend on about 70 different taxing districts, Lonergan said. Think cities, school districts, parks districts and the like.
The process also requires coordination with other counties — Auburn straddles the line that divides King and Pierce County, for example.
Bills should arrive mid-February, as usual, except for homeowners with mortgages, who typically don’t see a property tax statement, because the mortgage company pays it on their behalf.