This year, we in the Collector’s office sought to make paying taxes on time easier for many by offering full service at the Annex on Saturday, December 31. We also employed a 24 hour answering service, so that taxpayers could get assistance up to the last minute. A steady stream of people took advantage of this “additional” day to pay.
Unfortunately, some still woke up on New Year’s Day to the sickening discovery that their tax payment was late for some reason. The interest and penalty that accrues automatically at 12:01 a.m. on January 1 can be staggering.
Is there anything that you can do once that deadline has passed?
Under Missouri law (RSMO 139.001), interest and penalty are mandatory. Neither the Commission nor the Collector can waive penalty and interest in most cases. It’s a serious statute with no exceptions for people that make innocent mistakes, people in personal crisis, or people that have paid on time for years.
The law only allows waiver if the payment is late due to the County’s error. That leaves little room for mercy. But in reality, there are several factors that impact the timing of a tax payment.
“County error” is generally defined by Collectors as a failure of any regular procedure or system. So, there can be wiggle room in a very narrow set of cases. In every case, we can only help if a taxpayer reaches out as quickly as possible. Additional interest will accrue in February.
Calling early in January, and speaking politely, go a long way toward getting the situation resolved favorably. Calling early also shows a commitment to paying on time, and an awareness of the tax obligation.
Many taxpayers have trouble when they try to pay online. No one writes checks these days, so writing a big one accurately can be harder than it seems. And using the bill pay service provided by your bank isn’t foolproof either. When a person buys or refinances real estate during a year, it can be difficult to receive the correct tax bill. These are the types of situations where help may be available. In addition, taxpayers should always follow up after paying to make sure the money is deducted from the appropriate bank account. We definitely want to help when there are options available. But do not delay. If you reach out here early in January, you may find many more options available to you than will be available in February or later.