Church Hill attorney Joe May, who handles the delinquent tax collections for the city of Kingsport, recently gave an update on the process to the Board of Mayor and Aldermen.
“We're embarking on next year's process to collect taxes from 2016,” May said. “I'll be meeting with the city recorder and staff to set a calendar, and we'll be sending out first collection letter in January.”
Kingsport sends out more than 29,500 tax notices with a total billed value of $34.8 million. In all, the city collects more than 97 percent of the tax levy in the year bills are issued. However, not everyone pays up, and they fail to do so for a variety of reasons.
Property taxes are due by Nov. 1 of each year, with delinquent penalties applying after Nov. 30. Kingsport imposes a 2 percent delinquent penalty the first and second month property taxes are not paid and a 1 percent penalty every month thereafter.
The delinquent taxes May is talking about are the ones from 2016 and not the ones most folks just recently paid. A full year has to pass before the city embarks on the collection process, which could ultimately end up in Sullivan County Chancery Court come April.
Beginning in January, the first delinquent notice will go in the mail, which will say there's only small costs attached. A second reminder will then go out saying you'll be facing much larger costs, including the cost of publishing a notice in the newspaper, May said.
“People who ignore the notices are subject to penalties and the cost will start to add up exponentially,” May said.
Reasons for being late
May said there's about 300 accounts that are are delinquent.
Some of the delinquent taxpayers are new to the list this year, some are holdovers from previous years and a majority of the cases are simply due to oversight.
One of the more common causes of becoming delinquent is when a homeowner pays off the mortgage and forgets about paying property taxes the following year. Another is when a parcel is sold and the new property owner assumes the taxes were paid during the sale.
What happens in some cases is a property owner calls to check on the amount due, is told a figure that is good until the end of the month and then sends in a check on that day. Of course, when the check arrives five days later, the payment is actually late and additional penalties are applied.
If you're a disabled veteran or disabled senior citizen, May said there are avenues to take to receive some tax relief. The person has to submit an application with the Sullivan County property assessor’s office and meet the legal requirements. However, if you're already in arrears, then you cannot apply for relief for the year or years you are delinquent.