Woodstock collects more than $2 million in early tax payments seeking deductions

Town Clerk Jackie Earley

Last week was a busy one for the Town Clerk’s office as it went into overdrive preparing bills for those who wanted to prepay their 2018 property taxes to maximize their federal income tax deductions.

Under the new tax reform bill, deductions for state and local taxes will be capped at $10,000 for 2018. Taxes that were paid by the end of 2017 can be included on income tax filings, but only if they are backed up by a bill and tax warrant. Estimated tax payments cannot be used.

Governor Cuomo ordered municipalities to make prepayments available when possible, so that meant a difficult week.

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Text messages went back and forth Christmas Eve between Supervisor Bill McKenna and Clerk Jackie Earley. The county made its tax bill data available to the towns and employees spent much of December 26 installing the software needed to generate bills and by December 27, they were ready to go.

“We had three solid days of walk-in traffic,” Earley said. Usually, bills aren’t generated until the beginning of January, so the clerk’s office printed bills as people came in to pay.

By the end of the day December 29, the town collected $2 million in taxes. Since credit cards aren’t accepted for payment, it was all cash and checks, which is a lot to deal with in three days, she noted. And that was just the walk-ins. Taxpayers could mail payments as long as they were postmarked by December 31.

On January 2, her office collected and processed another $600,000 from the mail. Earley said she expected more mail to arrive with the December 31 postmark.

Earley said each prepayment was at least $5000.

Paying ahead of time won’t benefit everyone. State income tax prepayments were specifically excluded in a last-minute change to the federal tax reform. School taxes are largely out of the picture because they were billed back in September and 2018-19 rates won’t be decided until after budget votes in May.

Landlords deduct taxes as a business expense, which is unaffected by the new $10,000 cap.

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