Lawmakers: Wait and see before paying your property taxes

If they settle on a fix before the legislative session ends March 8, it might affect what you owe.

OLYMPIA — If you are planning to pay part or all of your property taxes in the next few days, don’t.

That’s right, hold off.

State lawmakers say they want to provide everyone some relief. If they settle on something before the legislative session ends March 8, it might affect what you owe.

So they want folks to wait to see what happens.

“Please,” implored Senate Majority Leader Sharon Nelson, D-Maury Island. “We are going to be working on getting out that message.”

A Department of Revenue official also suggested taxpayers be patient.

“At this point, it would be wise to hold off to see what the Legislature does,” said Anna Gill, spokesperson for the state Department of Revenue.

Proposals in the Senate and the House rely on a surge in revenues to buy down part of the property tax increase enacted last year to meet the state’s school funding obligations.

At that time, lawmakers and Gov. Jay Inslee boosted the statewide rate to $2.70 per $1,000 assessed value. That is a contributing factor to the startling increases homeowners are finding on their tax bills.

Legislation passed by the Senate Ways and Means Committee would lower the rate to $2.35 this year then it would return to the current rate in 2019. It also provides money to the Department of Revenue to assist counties which would need to recalculate tax bills.

Under Senate Bill 6614, if you pay your bill in full before any change takes effect and it turns out you paid too much, you’re out of luck. State law doesn’t allow for a refund or a credit on your 2019 bill.

“That’s why we’re trying to work quickly and get the word out” for folks to not pay until the session is over, Nelson said.

Meanwhile, Majority Democrats in the House are pushing a bill to spend more of the reserves in order to reduce the rate in 2019 and 2020. They also want to impose a capital gains tax and use those dollars to prevent the property tax rate from climbing again.

If the Legislature goes this route, nothing happens this year. Any rate reduction would be reflected on next year’s bill.

There’s really no danger in waiting to see how this plays out, Gill said.

Payments are due by April 30. If you pay half by that date, you can pay the second half in October. And for those who pay through their mortgage, their financial institution will have time to calibrate so they don’t collect more than is owed, she said.

“If they can wait, they should,” she said. “If a bill is passed we will start working on getting out information on what this means for taxpayers.”

Jerry Cornfield: 360-352-8623; jcornfield@herald Twitter: @dospueblos.

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