Many Counties delay due date for WA property taxes. This is just the beginning…
By Glen Morgan
A handful of Washington State Treasurers have decided to delay property tax due dates without penalties for over a month or more. The rest should do the same.
One silver lining on the dark cloud of Washington State Governor Inslee’s emergency declaration was that it empowered the elected county treasurers to delay the due date for paying property taxes. RCW 84.56.020(8) is the statutory authority for these actions, and is detailed below:
“DURING A STATE OF EMERGENCY DECLARED UNDER RCW 43.06.010(12), THE COUNTY TREASURER, ON HIS OR HER OWN MOTION OR AT THE REQUEST OF ANY TAXPAYER AFFECTED BY THE EMERGENCY, MAY GRANT EXTENSIONS OF THE DUE DATE OF ANY TAXES PAYABLE UNDER THIS SECTION AS THE TREASURER DEEMS PROPER.”
County Treasurers rarely receive public attention. They don’t command a lot of political authority or power most of the time. However, this is one of the rare situations where they can unilaterally make a decision which has a real positive impact on the lives of local property owners. Normally, the due date for the first 50% of a property owner’s tax is at the end of April (the second half due in October). Many property owners have their mortgage company pay the property tax monthly along with their mortgage payments. They may be less aware of the significance of the state’s property taxes and the recent increases, but if the property tax is paid with the mortgage, they can’t take advantage of this deferred payment.
The Washington Policy Center had recently posted an article calling for the treasurers to take advantage of this emergency provision and help property owners suffering under the shelter-in-place orders by Governor Inslee by postponing the date property taxes are due (see article here). On Monday, many of these treasurers officially announced these due date extensions. Here is the current list of seven counties (out of 39) who formally made this policy decision:
- Thurston County extends deadline to June 1, 2020 (see official announcement here). Note: they do reference the incorrect legal subsection (should be subsection 8, and they use “10”, but close enough).
- King County extends deadline to June 1, 2020 (see official announcement here). Note: King County is a Charter County, so the County Executive makes the decision here.
- Snohomish County extends deadline to June 1, 2020 (see newspaper article here, there was no official announcement on their website).
- Pierce County extends deadline to June 1, 2020 (see official announcement here). Pierce County is also a Charter County and they have an elected Assessor/Treasurer (only one in the state).
- Spokane County extends deadline to June 15, 2020 (see newspaper article here, couldn’t find an official announcement anywhere else). This is the longest extension so far in the state. Positive recognition to Treasurer Michael Baumgartner (former Republican State Senator) for extending this deadline the furthest (so far) for cash strapped property owners.
- Whatcom County extends deadline to June 1, 2020 (see KGMI article here)
- Pacific County extends deadline to June 1, 2020 (see newspaper article here). They appear to be the first county to make the announcement on March 26th.
This is a good policy decision. There could be some benefit in extending these property tax payment due dates as long as the state of emergency exists in Washington State. Based on some of the numbers presented by various treasurers, it only amounts to about 25-30% of the property taxes due in April, but every bit helps. The other 32 counties should consider implementing the same tax deferment policy and even pushing the deadline out into July, August, or later.
Keep in mind, this doesn’t eliminate the property tax itself, but the delayed payment (without assessed penalty) can make a huge difference for someone just trying to survive the shock of the Wuhan/Corona Virus pandemic shelter-in-place policies and the inevitable economic crash caused by grinding the local economy to a halt for a few months. Many people including property owners are going to suffer as a direct result of this downturn, and it seems almost certain that tax defaults are going to increase. Maybe this policy gives a small bit of breathing room for some property owners to hang on and survive a tough financial time.
It is nice to be able to write about a good local government decision like this.
OUR CONSTITUTION BEGINS WITH THE PHRASE “WE THE PEOPLE.” IT WAS THE FOUNDER’S INTENT THAT GOVERNMENT BE CREATED BY THE PEOPLE, TO SERVE THE PEOPLE. IT WASN’T THEIR INTENTION FOR THE PEOPLE TO SERVE THE GOVERNMENT. IT WAS ALWAYS INTENDED THAT GOVERNMENT WHICH FAILED TO SERVE THE PEOPLE SHOULD BE “ALTERED OR ABOLISHED.” UNTIL WE RETURN TO THE FOUNDER’S INTENT, WE REMAIN WE THE GOVERNED…
Background articles and documents:
Washington Policy Center – March 24, 2020 – “Homeowners are Struggling to pay their property tax – is it time for the state to offer a break?” (written by former Republican State Legislator Mark Harmsworth)
Published with Permission of wethegoverned.com