How to Get Help Paying Your Property Taxes When You Are Behind

Property taxes are the price homeowners and businesses pay to have clear roads, trash pick-up, good schools, fire departments and other amenities in a city or town. If you are late on your property tax payments, you will be assessed a penalty, possibly as much as 10 percent (or as much as your state allows) that will begin the day after the due date. Being late on your property taxes isn't the end of the world. You can get help, and usually being late on this bill won't affect your credit score the way being late on a car or mortgage payment would.

Step 1

Gather evidence of hardship. If you are having trouble paying your tax bill for whatever reason (medical bills, loss oft job, etc.), you should get your bills or letters together and be prepared to present them as the reason you are late.

Step 2

Be honest. Call your county tax office as soon as you know you are going to be late, whether this is a month before the taxes are due or the day they are due. Being up front about your situation will go a long way to making arrangements.

Step 3

Go in person. If you are unable to reach anyone by phone or are unable to get a satisfactory payment arrangement, go in person and bring your evidence. Calmly explain your situation and present your paperwork. Try not to overwhelm the person on the other side of the desk. They have their job to do too. Make sure they understand that you have every intention to pay but do not have the means. If you can, try and bring some money in to give a partial payment. This will show you're making an effort.

Step 4

Inquire about a tax abatement. In some communities, you can qualify for a tax abatement if you can prove an inability to pay your property taxes. Every community is different. Some will refer you to a state agency, and others will allow you to apply locally and review the application themselves. You must be thorough in your paperwork and be prepared to defend yourself in court if necessary. Contact a local Legal Aid agency for additional help.

Step 5

Inquire about other exemptions or "work-off" opportunities. In Massachusetts, for example, if you are over the age of 60 and are willing to do volunteer work, you can work off your property tax obligation. Other exemptions for property taxes include disabilities such as blindness, a widow or widower, an elderly person with financial need, a veteran with a wartime disability or be a homeowner of any age with a severe financial hardship.

Tip

Look into programs that can help. You are not the only person who has ever faced this hardship, and there are agencies in place that can help. Seek them out: they will at least be able to point you in the right direction if they can't help you themselves.

Warning

Be honest about how much you can pay. Don't agree to payment arrangements you can't handle. Often people acquiesce to a payment plan because they want to be able to pay it; but if you are unable to handle the payment arrangement you make, you will make the situation worse in the end.

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