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Deadline fast approaching for time to pay your 1999 property ta

by Paul Darst

STAFF WRITER

In a couple of weeks, printers at the Harrison County Sheriff's Tax Office will get a workout.

After April 30, workers there will print a list on about 200 pages containing all tax payers who have not paid their 1999 property taxes.

"Those taxes came out last July," said Kim Shaffer, chief tax deputy for Harrison County. "They will be considered delinquent if not paid by April 30."

A $10 fee will be added to all tax tickets not paid by then, Shaffer said. But additional charges are not all taxpayers will have to face.

"We have the list printed in the newspaper," she said. "The personal property list is run one time. The real estate list will run again on Sept. 10."

Besides publishing the delinquency list, counties take no further action against those who do not pay taxes for personal property, which is the state's automobile tax, Shaffer said.

But car owners must present a current property tax receipt to prove their taxes are paid before they can receive an annual license plate sticker, she said.

Real estate owners also have an incentive to pay the tax, Shaffer said. After the final list of delinquent real estate owners is published in September, her office prepares to sell the property.

"In early November we have our real estate auction on the courthouse steps," she said. "After that, people can still pay through October. A lot of them do pay, but we usually have 300 to 400 pieces for sale."

Even after the property has been auctioned, delinquent taxpayers still have a chance to mend their ways, Shaffer said.

If taxes are paid on the property, plus interest and fees, the original owner can retain the land. But that must be done prior to March 31, 2002. After then, the high bidder at this year's auction will take final possession, she said.

Before the auction, tax bills accumulate interest of .75 percent each month. That jumps to 1 percent after the auction.

Those tax bills on property sold at auction also will include a $200 title search, which the high bidder must have performed.

Counties can take other kinds of legal action against out-of-state businesses that don't pay their property taxes, Shaffer said. Under state law, counties can sue those businesses to recover the revenue.

A bill before the state Legislature this year would have allowed that kind of action against in-state businesses. That measure failed, but counties still have the option to auction business property if the taxes are not paid, she said.

Staff writer Paul Darst can be reached at 626-1404.

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