By Charles “Hos” Hoskins
The Maricopa County Treasurer’s office will start mailing property tax bills in late August, and complete mailing in early September. The tax bills have two payment coupons attached and the first half payment is due October 1, 2012 and the second payment is due March 1, 2013. The delinquency dates are November 1, 2012 and May 1, 2013.
Delinquent taxes accrue interest after 5:00 PM on the delinquent dates at a rate of 16 percent simple and on the first day of each month thereafter. Payment can be made online at: www.treasurer.maricopa.gov or at any Chase Branch bank.
There are 1,686,244 taxable properties in the county including 136,576 personal property accounts. About half of the tax bills are transmitted electronically to financial institutions that pay the property taxes from escrow accounts established by property owners, mostly home owners, that pay their taxes as part of their monthly mortgage. This allows the County Treasurer to send one bill electronically to an escrow company and receive one payment, also electronically.
Companies that own multiple properties, convenience stores, grocery chains, warehouse stores, etc., can receive a single electronic bill and pay electronically if they have 25 or more separate properties in Maricopa County. This electronic billing and payment process is also available to anyone else, accountants, condominium managers, etc., that pays taxes on 25 or more separate properties. Information on how to establish a bulk payment account is available at 602-506-8511.
Of the nearly 800,000 individual tax bills mailed about 30,000 will be returned by the US Postal Service, and require hundreds of man-hours and thousands of taxpayer dollars to search for a correct remailing address. Tax bills are mailed to the owner of record as listed on the county assessor’s tax roll. Most of those addresses are taken from part 5 of the Affidavit of Value form filed with the county recorder by members of the real estate community. A large percentage of the returned tax bills are due to incorrect addresses listed in part 5 of the affidavit.
There are more than 1,500 tax districts in Maricopa County consisting of schools, cities, county government, community colleges, and numerous special districts, and each property is taxed by about 15 to 20 of those districts. Tax district budgets are set by an elected governing body, and some governing bodies set tax rates for more than one district.
After the budget is set it is divided by the total taxable value of all properties in the district to determine a tax rate. The tax rate is then applied to each property in the district to determine its fair share of taxes owed to fund the budget. For instance, the total value of all property within the city limits would be divided into the city’s budget to get the city tax rate.
Some interesting property tax characteristics:
- Counties are not required to mail individual tax bills. They are only required to run a legal ad in a paper of general circulation that the taxes are due. It is the sole responsibility of the property owner to determine the amount of tax owed and make timely payment. Therefore, failure to receive a tax bill does not relieve the property owner from paying the taxes.
- Interest accrues on delinquent taxes as prescribed by law, and cannot be waived unless there is an objectively verifiable error made by the county that does not require the exercise of discretion, opinion or judgment.
- Taxes cannot be appealed. The reason is that there are multiple tax districts with separate levies, and each one would have to agree to reduce their levy for a single property. This is not administratively possible.
- And, finally, taxes are based on spending not value or rates. If the taxable value of each property in a district dropped equally and the budget remains the same as the previous year the tax rate will increase and each property will pay the same amount as last year. If a district reduces the budget and the taxable value of each property stays constant the tax rate will drop and each property will pay less.
[Editor’s Note: Charles “Hos” Hoskins is the Maricopa County Treasurer.]