Not Much Time Left to Prepay 2018 Property Taxes

Make friends with a local assessor quick — if you're a homeowner and want to deduct your 2018 property taxes for 2017, the Internal Revenue Service has issued new rules for prepayment. According to guidance issued Wednesday, in order to qualify, you need to both have your property assessed within the 2017 tax year and make your payment before New Year's Day.

If by good luck you already have your property tax bill, there's still time to make it down to your local taxing authority's office and file your payments. Because of the IRS ruling, some agencies are posting extra hours to accommodate the rush. In Chicago, for instance, the Cook County Treasurer's Office will be open on New Year's Eve (though not the preceding Saturday). Check with your bank if you can't make it to a government office — some may be able to take your payments at a branch location.

Prepayment on property taxes isn't all that's ending with the new federal tax code, which takes effect on Jan. 1. New divorcees can no longer deduct alimony payments, while companies have to spread out deductions over five years for research and development costs. The weightiest of the tax bill's changes might be the end of deductions for state and local taxes; essentially, if you live in a high-tax state already, a lot more of it will go to the federal government and likely be redistributed to lower-tax states.

If all of the above makes your head spin but you still feel like you need to talk it out with someone, check out the IRS's free telephone hotline and online FAQ. According to the IRS website, "Customer service representatives are available Monday through Friday, 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. local time, unless otherwise noted. Residents of Alaska and Hawaii should follow Pacific time. Puerto Rico phone lines are open 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. local time."