BENTON - With the end of the year fast approaching, the deadline for paying property taxes is also drawing near.
"All the 2004 bills have been mailed," said Mark Hensley, Scott County collector. "If they have not received one, they need to contact the collector's office. Failure to receive a tax bill does not relieve the taxpayer from any obligations.
If the tax bill goes unpaid there will be interest and penalties after Dec. 31."
Approximately 40,000 tax statements were mailed in Scott County this year, according to Hensley, and many have already been returned with payments: "So far the mail has been quite heavy."
Dewayne Nowlin, New Madrid County collector, said all his tax statements are mailed out as well.
"We mailed out 14,605 bills," Nowlin said, "but those envelopes might have had 10 or 12 bills in them. The total number of tax bills "is up around 22,000," he said.
For November, "collections are running about normal with last year," Nowlin reported.
Residents in the Portageville school district will see a 50 cent tax increase, R-1 schools in New Madrid went up 12 cents, and Gideon schools are up a nickel.
"We had a few school districts going up - everything else pretty much stayed the same," Nowlin said.
If New Madrid County residents mail in their payment, "it must be postmarked by Dec. 31 or they will be charged interest and penalties," Nowlin said. "That's the most important thing they need to know."
Faye Elliot, collector of revenue for Mississippi County, said tax statements in her county have also all been mailed, "around 8,500-8,700."
Mississippi County taxpayers can expect no real changes this year.
Whether or not other Scott County offices are closed Dec. 31, Hensley said he will keep his office open.
"It's my opinion that my tax bills say taxes are due by Dec. 31 and after Dec. 31 become delinquent," he said. "As collector, I just feel obligated to be open on the last day they are due."
Hours for the Scott County Collector's Office on Dec. 31 will be "same as always - 8 a.m. until 5 p.m.," Hensley said.
Procrastinators will have up until the last minute to pay their taxes in New Madrid County, too. "We will be open Dec. 31, all day," Nowlin said.
The New Madrid County collector's office will close at noon Dec. 24, but "we'll be open regular hours on the last week of December," Nowlin said.
Those who prefer to pay in person and wait until the last minute in Mississippi County, however, will need to do so on Dec. 30: "We're taking off Friday Dec. 31," Elliot said.
Hensley encouraged county residents to "double check to make sure they do have all of their tax bills."
While personal property tax bills are determined by what is owned on Jan. 1, "on real estate the tax bill stays with the property," Hensley said. "It will follow the property, not the owner. If the real estate tax is not paid, the new property owner will be liable for that tax bill. If you have recently purchased a house and have not received the tax bill on that, you need to contact the collector's office if it's not paid by escrow. The common thought is, when they've closed on the house, the taxes have been taken care of, but often they're not. Home buyers should be aware that the tax bill, the majority of the time, is their obligation."
"It's really been a problem for me - the new owners do not get the tax bill because it was in the previous owner's name," Hensley added. The next year the new home owners get a bill showing delinquent taxes due with interest and penalties.
"If it's not paid and current, then there are interest and penalties and that is state mandated," Hensley said. "If they bought a house this year and did not receive a tax bill, chances are they are liable for those taxes and should contact my office."
This is the second year that convenience cards are attached to the bottom of Scott County tax receipts, perforated for easy removal by the taxpayer.
"Last year was the first year we went to computer generated tax statements - that has been extremely successful," Hensley said. "This year, we added merchant licenses with the same technology and that went real well. The merchant license has kind of a new look this year. Lynn Lancaster, a local artist, has done a drawing of the courthouse on the merchant license this year."
Hensley said there are also plans for the future to add computer Internet payments, maybe as early as next year. "That's something to look forward to," he said.