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Returning your call

November 30, 2007|By JOSHUA BOWMAN

Paying taxes by credit card



Editor's Note: Each Friday, Herald-Mail reporters and editors will answer some of the questions that are called in by readers to Mail Call. Consider this us returning your call.

Q. "I just recently paid my taxes. I called to see if they'd take a credit card to pay them, because I have trouble walking and have asbestosis. The city doesn't charge you to take your credit card, but I found out the county charges anybody with a credit card to pay 2.5 percent over what you owe, for accepting the credit card. I don't understand that. They're not selling anything. All they want is the money they can get from you, and you turn around and end up paying 2.5 percent more. I'd like to know why Washington County charges extra for a credit card and the city doesn't. So I'd like to have an explanation."

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A: It might seem like a mean-spirited markup, but the county actually does not keep any portion of the fee, according to Washington County Treasurer Todd Hershey. The 2.5-percent "convenience fee" is levied by the company that processes the county's credit card transactions, Hershey said.

In fact, any time you use a credit card, whether it's to pay your tax bill or buy groceries, a processing service fee is applied. Companies can choose to pass that fee directly to the consumer, like the county does, or they can pay for it by slightly raising their prices on goods and services.

In the latter case, you don't notice the fee because it's embedded in the cost of whatever you're paying for.

Hershey said the county prefers not to do this because not everyone pays their taxes by credit card and the processing fee on tax bills can be substantial.

To avoid paying the fee, county residents can pay tax bills by cash, money order or check. Payments can be dropped off in person or mailed to the Washington County Treasurer's Office at 35 W. Washington St., Suite 102, Hagerstown, Md., 21740.

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