Today, Utah's 29 county treasurers are supposed to finish collecting an estimated $2.27 billion in real property taxes to distribute to school districts, cities, special service districts and themselves.
The estimate comes from the Utah Taxpayers Association based on Utah State Tax Commission data and is up $214 million or 10.4 percent over property taxes collected in 2006.
Some of that increase statewide is from the 66 taxing entities that raised property taxes, and some is from rising property values combined with infrequent valuations.
In Bountiful, areas of which were appraised for the first time in a decade, many residents saw property taxes double from 2006.
In Huntsville, residents felt victimized by out-of-state residents and investors who drove up property values. And a group of residents, in a tongue-in-cheek gesture, put the town up for sale.
Property tax is sometimes called Utah's most hated tax because it's charged to people regardless of their ability to pay it.
And this year, counties across the state saw residents appealing their property values in near record numbers in an effort to reduce property taxes.
The hullabaloo caused the Utah Legislature to take notice, and about a dozen methods have been proposed for easing the property tax burden on Utah residents.
Davis County, the Davis School District, Weber Basin Water Conservancy District, Davis Mosquito Abatement District and Bountiful city responded by creating an "equity abatement," or tax reduction, for hardest-hit residents.
About $5.8 million in new growth revenue was split among 23,392 properties in Davis County, the only county to offer such tax relief. The average abatement was $212, according to the Davis County Clerk/Auditor's Office, though just fewer than 1 percent of those eligible for equity abatements had their taxes discounted by $1,000 or more.
But the equity abatement is available only for the 2007 tax bill, county officials say.
So some of the most vocal residents in Bountiful and Huntsville have formed the Citizens Coalition for Tax Fairness, to focus on reforming Utah's property tax system, controlling government spending and ensuring that taxpayer funds are fairly and efficiently managed.
"Enough is enough," says Don "D-Bell" Bell, a Huntsville resident and coalition co-founder. "Elected officials have failed to protect the citizens who elected them, so we have to fight to protect our communities, ourselves and our property."
The coalition urges residents to join the coalition or start similar groups in their areas.
For more information about joining the coalition or starting your own, send an e-mail to [email protected].
Getting it paid
Most Utah residents won't have to worry about paying their property taxes on time, because mortgage companies hold escrow accounts that pay taxes and insurance for the homeowner.
But it's a good idea to call your mortgage company to make sure those taxes have been paid.
If the check is in the mail and postmarked by today, you're OK.
But after Nov. 30, counties charge a minimum penalty of $10 or 2 percent, whichever is greater, said Davis County Treasurer Mark Altom, who is charged with collecting property taxes for all taxing entities in the county and distributing the revenue accordingly.
So anyone with a late tax bill under $500 would be charged $10.
If you wait until after Jan. 15, though, that tax bill starts getting even more expensive with an interest rate of about 11 percent.
Wait five years, and your property will likely be included in the county's annual tax sale, meaning that the county auctions off the property in May or June so the county can claim its back taxes.
Davis County Clerk/Auditor Steve Rawlings said nearly all Davis County homes that have been up for sale have been redeemed before the tax sale, and most properties that have been sold are minuscule or awkwardly shaped parcels without homes on them.Altom said as of Thursday his office had collected just under $110 million. He estimates that his office will collect $130 million from property owners by the time the collection process is done.
E-mail: [email protected]