Debt Forces County’s Hand—King County’s Debt Forces Property Owners to Make Second Half 2020 Property Tax Payments on Usual Schedule
On September 17, 2020, King County announced that, despite the ongoing pandemic and economic uncertainty, property owners would not receive an extension on the property tax bill corresponding to the second half of 2020. In the press release, the County advised property owners who pay their property taxes themselves, as opposed to through a mortgage lender, that they have until Monday, November 2, 2020, to pay the second half of their property tax bill for 2020. Failure to meet the payment deadline will result in the addition of interest charges and penalties to the outstanding tax bill.
Budgetary constraints evidently weighed heavily on King County officials’ decision to maintain the previously established payment deadline. Through the press release, County officials explained that “an extension of the second half deadline could create substantial financial risk for many cities, counties, school districts, fire districts, hospital districts, and other special purpose districts.” The various cities, districts, and other jurisdictions within King County “rely heavily on the timely receipt of the year’s second installment of property tax revenue to make December debt service payments.” Taxpayers unable to meet the November 2 deadline can contact King County to initiate a payment plan.
King County provides local and regional services with a two-year budget of about $11.6 billion and 15,000 employees. Debt service payments account for 3% of King County’s general fund expenditures, with said debt payments totaling about $60 million. King County estimates that its decision to maintain the current property tax payment deadline will affect approximately 45% of King County property owners. King County is not the only jurisdiction forced to make this decision; Pierce and Snohomish Counties are also maintaining their fall property tax payment deadlines. State and local governments’ inability to provide a reprieve for taxpayers is likely also a result of the legislative impasse currently entangling federal lawmakers. Congressional proposals put forth earlier this year, but not yet enacted, would have earmarked funds to support state and local governments facing budgetary shortfalls due to the economic downturn precipitated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Taxpayers seeking additional guidance related to state and local tax issues are encouraged to reach out to tax attorneys at Schwabe. We are here to help.