• 46°

Property tax penalty abatement and additional payment methods

By Scott Felten

Mower County Auditor/Treasurer

The Mower County Board of Commissioners passed a resolution on April 14 to abate penalties from being assessed on first half 2020 property tax payments for two months.

The due date for payment of first half property taxes is May 15, which is set by Minnesota state law and cannot be changed locally. Penalties and interest on unpaid property taxes is set by the Minnesota Department of Revenue, and not by counties.

However, state law does authorize counties to abate penalties and interest on property taxes if the county board finds the penalty is “unjust and unreasonable.”  County boards are to determine what circumstances qualify as unjust and unreasonable.

The current COVID-19 pandemic has negatively affected many businesses and individuals from a financial and cash flow standpoint. Counties around the state have been discussing what options might be permitted to try to lessen this hardship. The county board has chosen to abate (waive) penalties on unpaid first half 2020 property taxes for two months. What this means is that as long as first half property taxes are paid by July 15, 2020 (instead of May 15), no penalty will be charged.

Penalties for late payment will not be assessed until July 16, 2020. The penalty schedule for unpaid property taxes is detailed on the back of each property tax statement.  The penalties essentially are moved back by two months. The May 16 penalty will now be charged on July 16, and the June 1 penalty will now be charged on Aug. 1, and so on.

While the penalties are delayed for late payment, the county does ask those individuals and businesses that are not experiencing financial hardships and who have the money available to please pay your taxes on time by May 15. Making partial payment of taxes by May 15 when possible is also encouraged. Many people have already paid their first half 2020 property taxes and that is greatly appreciated.

The reason it is important that property tax collections continue to be received by May 15 is that the county not only collects taxes based on its tax levy but also collects taxes based on the tax levies of school districts, cities, and townships in the county. The county makes disbursements of tax levy dollars to these other entities in late May, early June and early July based on the amount of property taxes collected through May 20. A decrease in property tax dollars collected by May 20 means a decrease/delay of dollars for the school districts, cities, and townships which can create cash flow challenges.

The county did survey school districts, cities, and townships on the proposed penalty abatement change prior to taking action.  The vast majority supported a penalty abatement action and, while acknowledging they could face some cash flow challenges, they understood there was a need to provide some relief to taxpayers.

Please note the penalty abatement does not apply to any delinquent and past due property taxes from prior years.

Payment Methods

There are two new payment methods available for taxpayers to make their property tax payments.  Payments can now be made online by going to the auditor-treasurer’s page of the county’s website http://co.mower.mn.us.

Convenience fees apply for paying by credit/debit card or by e-check.  The second new payment option is a payment drop box.  As county offices are closed to the public through at least May 4, a drop box has been installed just outside the Law Enforcement Center (LEC) entrance on the northwest side of the Mower County Government Center for people to drop off their tax payments.

The staff in the auditor-treasurer office are still working so property tax payments can be made over the phone using a credit/debit card or e-check (convenience fees apply) by calling 507-437-9535 or 507-437-9456. Office hours are from 8:00 am to 4:30 pm Monday-Friday.  Please have your parcel ID number handy when paying over the phone.

Tax payments can also be made by mail, using the green envelopes included with your property tax statement; just remember to include your payment stub with your check.

Taxpayers can also choose to have their property taxes paid by automatic withdrawal from their bank account by completing an authorization form and returning it to us no later than May 1. The form is available on the auditor-treasurer’s page of the county website.

If taxpayers are currently set up to have their property taxes paid by automatic withdrawal, but they do not want to pay their taxes by May 15, they must contact our office no later than May 1, to notify us of that fact. The taxpayer will then have to remember to pay those taxes later as automatic payment of first half 2020 taxes will no longer be possible after May 15. The automatic withdrawal feature will still stay in effect for the payment of second half property taxes in the fall of 2020, unless we are told otherwise.

2020 property tax statements were mailed out March 30. If you did not receive your statement, please contact our office at 507-437-9535 as soon as possible as it may have been returned to us if you had a forwarding address or if your current address is not on file in our tax system.

If you have questions about property taxes, please call the auditor-treasurer’s office at 507-437-9535. Our office also has a Facebook page www.facebook.com/Mower-County-Auditor-Treasurer-Office-425092028322302/.