Rush is on to pay taxes now

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Harrison resident Doug Parris receives his tax form back from Robin Downing in the Kootenai County Treasurer's Office on Friday morning in Coeur d'Alene. Parris was among the local residents who chose to pay the second half of his 2017 taxes this year rather than June after the new tax overhaul was approved this month. The office had a steady stream of residents prepaying their property taxes to avoid next year's cap on state and local deductions. (LOREN BENOIT/Press)

COEUR d’ALENE — Doug Parris had an extra item on his errand list Friday that he typically wouldn’t look forward to, but the recent tax reform law changed that outlook.

The Harrison man was among a steady stream of Kootenai County residents who stopped by the Treasurer’s Office to pay off the second half of his 2017 property taxes during the final business day of this calendar year, rather than waiting until June.

The federal bill eliminates a previous provision in the tax code allowing homeowners to deduct their state and local property taxes from their federal taxes, thereby prompting some residents to pay in the waning days of 2017. The new federal tax overhaul signed by President Donald Trump will cap the deduction for state and local property taxes at $10,000 a year.

"I just heard on the news (on Thursday) that some people were (prepaying)," Parris said after making his tax payment. "I don’t know too much about the new law, but I spoke with my tax person and they told me that maybe it will help me and maybe it won’t.

"So I then thought, why not? It can’t hurt to try."

Parris said he had to make a run to Coeur d’Alene anyway on Friday, so he simply added the stop at the Treasurer’s Office to his to-do list even with caveats in the new law that will need sorted out.

"I’ve paid my taxes both ways — in full and in two payments," he said. "I feel fortunate being able to pay (the second half) today because I had the extra money to do it. I realize that many people may not be able to do it because of cash flow."

Parris said he found an extra bonus when he pulled into the courthouse parking lot during the snowy morning.

"The parking lot was not full because of the weather," he said with a smile.

Kootenai County Treasurer Steve Matheson said more than 100 people came into his office since the bill was passed to pay off their taxes early. A steady stream popped in on Friday, the last day his department was open before the new year.

"We haven’t been overwhelmed, but we’ve definitely had a noticeable and consistent impact," he said.

Matheson said he didn’t know approximately how many local residents sent their payments in by mail because his office is still processing mail that was received about two weeks ago due to the busy tax payment season. The first part of the 2017 taxes were due on Dec. 20.

Matheson said he himself was debating whether to pay his second tax installment in 2017.

He said his office will recognize today’s mail postmark as taxes that were paid in 2017 if they are legibly marked that way, but he said he could not speak for the Internal Revenue Service’s rules on that.

Matheson said the most common question his staff was asked the past two weeks was whether they should or shouldn’t pay the taxes during this calendar year. However, employees are not tax advisers and therefore pointed residents toward their accountants.

"We don’t want to give reckless advice," he said, adding that every person’s tax situation is different and his office is the tax collector.

Matheson said some residents inquired whether they could already pay for their 2018 taxes, but that can’t happen without having the new assessed value of your property first.

"A prepayment of anticipated real property taxes that have not been assessed prior to 2018 are not deductible in 2017," an IRS news release states.

According to the IRS, people can’t guess at what next year’s assessment might be, pay that amount ahead of time and still get the deduction.

The IRS still has to interpret the new law, then will offer guidance on it, making its implementation unsettled heading into the new year.

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