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Trying to prepay your 2018 property taxes? Here’s why it won’t work in Whatcom County

In Whatcom County and across Washington state, treasurer’s offices are not allowed to accept payment on property taxes until the tax roll has been certified.
In Whatcom County and across Washington state, treasurer’s offices are not allowed to accept payment on property taxes until the tax roll has been certified. The Bellingham Herald file

For property owners pondering whether paying 2018 property taxes in 2017 is a good idea, you’re out of luck – it’s not going to work in Whatcom County.

The Whatcom County Treasurer’s Office has been getting around 50 phone calls a day recently from people asking about prepaying their 2018 property taxes, said county Treasurer Steve Oliver. The inundation of questions started right after the federal tax reform bill passed earlier this month, capping property tax deductions at $10,000 in 2018. The calls increased as national media outlets reported on the possibility of prepaying.

In Whatcom County and across Washington state, treasurer’s offices are not allowed to accept payment on property taxes until the tax roll has been certified, according to a state statute. The completion of the tax roll doesn’t happen until late January or early February.

One might think the only property owners inquiring about this are those who pay more than $10,000 a year, but that’s not necessarily the case, Oliver said.

If prepayment was accepted, small business owners might use it as an opportunity to lower their taxable net business income for that year. Another example for prepaying are people who itemize their tax return and want to avoid getting bumped into a higher tax bracket.

Washington state property tax payers may have also started wondering about prepayment because of the expected increases for many in the 2018 bill. One reason for the rise is the McCleary decision, which orders Washington state to fully fund public schools. That increase will be around $1.12 per $1,000 of assessed value, in addition to the school levies each district already pays. For a property with an assessed value of $250,000, the McCleary decision alone is a $280 increase.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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