Tax deadline fast approaching

Published 9:56 pm Friday, December 21, 2012

Property owners in Escambia County have just a few days to pay taxes or claim exemptions for next year.

Escambia County Tax Collector Rachel Wiggins said a Dec. 31 deadline is quickly approaching for those who have not yet paid their taxes.

“We’re doing a little better than we were at this time last year in our collections,” Wiggins said. “We still have a way to go, but time is running out.”

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Escambia County Tax Assessor Jim Hildreth said those who own property in the county need to consider claiming certain exemptions before the Dec. 31 deadline.

“Property owners wishing to claim exemptions for the 2013 tax year, must do so before Dec. 31,” Hildreth said. “This would include owners who have purchased homes since Oct. 1, 2011 through Oct. 1, 2012. It also includes owners who want to claim an exemption of age if they are 65 years old or older. People who are totally and permanently disabled may also claim the exemption.”

Hildreth said those who wish to claim the “current use” exemption on agricultural land need to file and application for the exemption by Dec. 31 as well.

Wiggins said for those who miss the Dec. 31 deadline, fees and interest will be added to the amount owed.  “We will add a $5 fee to every account that taxes are paid on by the deadline,” Wiggins said. “In addition to that, there will be a 3 percent interest fee to each account not paid.” Wiggins said additional fee charges will be added to accounts who continue to go unpaid until the time for sale of the taxed property on the courthouse steps.

“In March, every account for property taxes that has not been paid will get an additional fee added to the total owed,” Wiggins said. “We will mail our certified letters and bills for those accounts and when we do, we will add the cost of the certified mail as well as another 4 percent in interest. In April, we will publish the property accounts that have still not been paid. After that, a publication cost will be added to each account and more interest. If the account is still not paid, come May, that property will be up for sale out front.” Wiggins said property is sold every year in May, with owners have a small window of opportunity to redeem the property.  “If we do sell a piece of property to get the unpaid taxes, that doesn’t mean the owner can’t ever have their property back,” Wiggins said. “There is a three-year period following the sale to allow the original owner to redeem the property. But, they still have to pay all the fees plus 1 percent interest for ether month. The people who buy the property at the tax sale in May get their money back that they paid for the property as well as a little interest.”

The Escambia County Tax Collector and Tax Assessor’s office will be open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m. closed for Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The office will be open Dec. 31, but closed on Jan. 1, 2013.