Patrick: Pay tax in installments
By Miles Smith
Residents in Caldwell County and 59 other counties that were declared disaster areas following Hurricane Harvey have the option to pay their 2017 and 2018 property taxes in installments rather than in a lump sum, according to a recent statement issued by Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick.
Texas Tax Code 31.032 allows homeowners and small businesses that were damaged in the hurricane and are in a declared disaster area to pay their property taxes in four installments instead of one lump sum without penalty or interest. This includes all single-family homes and other residential property with no more than four units, including small businesses with gross receipts of less than $5.7 million, Patrick said last week.
The code does not lower appraisals or property taxes, but spreads out what is owed over several months while eliminating penalties and interest.
“…In the immediate aftermath of Hurricane Harvey, I called on counties and other local taxing entities to initiate disaster reappraisals so that those with damaged homes and businesses would not be assessed for property taxes on the value of their property before the storm hit,” Patrick said in a written statement. “Some taxing entities stepped up immediately to begin disaster reappraisal, but in the meantime, I want to make sure property taxpayers know they have another option that could be helpful both this year and next year.”
Martin Ritchey, chief of the Caldwell County Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Management, said 214 homeowners in Caldwell County had reported damage after the storm. Not all who applied for Federal Emergency Management Agency assistance were approved, Ritchey noted.
As of Dec. 11, the U.S. Small Business Administration has received a total of 44 economic injury applications from home and business owners in Caldwell County. Of those, 15 applications granting a total of $566,200 have been approved, according to SBA public information officer Elizabeth Vargas.
Ritchey said the ability to make installment payments on property taxes would, if nothing else, help people pay the bills as they try to restore their homes and businesses.
“It’s very helpful,” Ritchey said. “Instead of having to pay off everything up front, people will have more time to repay, which will improve their cash flow. It’s a good opportunity to take advantage of while you’re trying to get on your feet.”
By Jan. 31, people electing to make installment payments must pay 25 percent of their property tax bills and inform their local taxing unit that they intend to pay their bill in installments. The second payment is due March 31, the third payment is due May 31, and the final payment is due July 31.
In the 2017 Texas Legislature, the Senate unanimously passed a bill that would have required appraisal districts to reappraise all property after a major disaster, but the bill died in the House.
In related news, Gov. Greg Abbott on Monday issued a proclamation extending the State Disaster Declaration an additional 30 days for all 60 Texas counties affected by Hurricane Harvey.
State Disaster Declarations must be renewed every 30 days for assistance to remain available.
Counties currently declared disaster areas include: Angelina, Aransas, Atascosa, Austin, Bastrop, Bee, Bexar, Brazoria, Brazos, Burleson, Caldwell, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Colorado, Comal, DeWitt, Fayette, Fort Bend, Galveston, Goliad, Gonzales, Grimes, Guadalupe, Hardin, Harris, Jackson, Jasper, Jefferson, Jim Wells, Karnes, Kerr, Kleberg, Lavaca, Lee, Leon, Liberty, Live Oak, Madison, Matagorda, Milam, Montgomery, Newton, Nueces, Orange, Polk, Refugio, Sabine, San Patricio, San Augustine, San Jacinto, Trinity, Tyler, Victoria, Walker, Waller, Washington, Wharton, Willacy, and Wilson.