Paying property taxes made easier, if not painless

Boone County adds online, credit card, time payments.
Friday, December 19, 2003 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 2:11 p.m. CDT, Sunday, July 20, 2008

Boone County residents should soon be able to pay their property taxes online using electronic checks or credit cards.

Discover cards have been accepted for property taxes since 1996, and the county is adding Visa, MasterCard and American Express. The system also will let taxpayers meet their obligations with electronic checks.

“This is based on taxpayers’ requests,” said County Collector Pat Lensmeyer. “They would like to pay their taxes by credit card, and some don’t have Discover.”

Lensmeyer said her office is working to finalize an online system, and she hopes the option will be available at by the Dec. 31 tax deadline. Though Lensmeyer said she hoped the credit card portion of the Web site would be up by the end of this month, Official Payments, the processor for the American Express, Visa and MasterCard merchants, has not yet supplied the information needed to launch the credit card portion of the site.

In addition to paying the taxes in full, Lensmeyer said, taxpayers can now arrange to pay their 2004 property taxes, due next December, in monthly installments with a credit card, money order or automated payment from a bank account. That service is available at the collector’s office in the Boone County Government Center and will be available online, as well.

“They don’t have to come up with the total amount at the end of the year when we’re all a little stressed for cash,” Lensmeyer said. “They can make regular monthly installments to us, then the last bill at the end of 2004 will be an adjustment bill, saying this much is left over.”

Property owners who use credit cards other than Discover will be charged a transaction fee of 4.75 percent, Lensmeyer said. The transaction fee includes profit for the third-party processor, GMI, as well as the fees charged by the individual credit card companies.

“I caution taxpayers who use credit cards to calculate how much it is going to be,” Lensmeyer said. “MasterCard and Visa do not allow the merchant to pass on that transaction fee. The third-party processor processes it for us, and then remits it to the credit card company. It probably is a little higher than what a retail business would pay, but this is the best I’ve been able to negotiate.”

Pam Socha, a saleswoman with GMAC Realtors in Columbia, doesn’t think the credit card option will be popular with new homeowners.

“Some people do pay their own taxes, but a lot of mortgage companies don’t like that,” Socha said. “It might be your home, but you don’t own it yet.”

Lensmeyer expects to receive $90 million in property tax payments by the beginning of January. A late fee will be charged for those who fail to pay by the deadline at midnight on Dec. 31.

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