Online bill pay not allowed for property taxes this year

Friday, November 19, 2010 | 5:12 p.m. CST; updated 5:23 p.m. CST, Saturday, November 20, 2010

COLUMBIA — Columbia property taxpayers will not be able to submit their payments online this year.

Boone County Collector Patricia Lensmeyer said the decision comes in response to a number of accidental late charges last year. She said about one-third of the last year's payments from online bill pay taxpayers came in January.

“We could not process them in time because we didn’t receive them in December,” she said. “It’s a small amount, and that’s why I made the decision this year to not accept them before this becomes a huge problem.”

Lensmeyer said that right now, most property owners mail in their tax payments. Property tax bills each come with a prepaid envelope to send back to the collector’s office.

Lensmeyer wrote an article for the Columbia Business Times fully explaining her decision.

One reason she cited is that many people who paid taxes online thought they were doing so on time, but they actually didn't arrive at her office until after the Dec. 31 due date because of the time it takes some institutions to process payments over the Internet.

She said payments are debited from the taxpayers' accounts but reach her office by paper checks from third-party processors. That could make the date on the check later than when it was actually paid. 

Lensmeyer also said online bill pay checks that come to her office don’t have their accompanying tax bill. When her staff receives the payments, they have to set aside online payments until they find the correct account or bill. That slows the process down.

Mailed payments, she said, should contain the original bill along with the taxpayer's payment.

In the Business Times article, Lensmeyer said no one is to blame.

Boone County property taxpayers will know about this change when they open their property tax bills.

“When they get their tax bill, they will also get a flier that says we are not accepting online bill pay,” Lensmeyer said.

The collector’s office suspended online bill pay this year, but it may be back in the future.

“I am working with bankers to see what we can do to help people who want to use electronic bill pay," she said.

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