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Washington Co. property tax bills in the mail

Early payers get slight discount on county portion

Early payers get slight discount on county portion

June 30, 2009|By HEATHER KEELS

WASHINGTON COUNTY -- Property tax bills were mailed out Tuesday to 55,477 Washington County property owners, County Treasurer Todd Hershey said.

The bills should start arriving in mailboxes Wednesday, he said.

The county expects to take in about $116.5 million through real estate taxes, which make up more than half of the county's general fund revenue, according to the county's fiscal year 2010 budget.

The bills are due by Sept. 30, but there are benefits to paying early, Hershey said. Taxpayers are eligible for a 0.5 percent discount on the county portion of their bills if they pay by July 31, he said. Interest charges of 1 percent per month begin Oct. 1, he said.

Bills for properties that are the owner's primary residence can be paid in two installments, generally in July and December, Hershey said.

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Each year, the tax bills prompt questions and complaints from many property owners who are surprised by increases in their bills, Hershey said.

"We get hundreds and hundreds of calls," he said.

In many cases, the source of the confusion is the Maryland Homestead Tax Credit, Hershey said.

The Homestead Tax Credit limits taxable assessment increases for qualifying properties to a fixed percentage each year. In Washington County, the commissioners have set that figure at 5 percent.

Another reason for rising tax bills is that assessments are still rising for many properties. Properties in Washington County reassessed this year saw an average assessment increase of 3 percent over their assessment three years ago, according to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation.

That is because while property values decreased somewhat in 2008, many properties were still worth more in January 2009 than they were in January 2005, state officials said after the new assessments were issued.

Washington County's total taxable base, or the amount of assessment subject to property tax, has increased 9.1 percent from this time last year, said Jerry L. Elmore, supervisor of the Washington County office of the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation. The county's taxable base was $13.1 billion when last year's tax bills were issued and is $14.3 billion now, Elmore said.

That increase reflects assessment increases, as well as new properties built within the past year, he said.

Elmore encouraged any homeowners who received a Homestead Tax Credit application with their reassessment notice and have not returned the form to do so as soon as possible so they can continue to receive the credit.

Questions about assessments or the Homestead Tax Credit should be directed to the Maryland Department of Assessments and Taxation office at 301-791-3050.

Homestead Tax Credit



A law enacted in 2007 requires homeowners to submit a one-time application in order to be eligible to receive or continue receiving the Homestead Tax Credit.

Homeowners whose homes were reassessed in January 2008 or January 2009 should have received an application with their assessment notices. Those whose homes are not scheduled for assessment until 2010 do not need to apply until after their assessment in January.

Homeowners who have already received their applications may also apply online at https://sdathtc.resiusa.org/homestead.

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