Tax Collecting 101

Listen up, blog readers! 

I am going to tell you about Tax Collecting.  Let’s call this class:  Tax Collecting 1o1. 

There will be a quiz.  Please, take notes.  (I’m sorry that there will be no photos.  You don’t expect a blog about Tax Collecting to have PHOTOS do you?)

This is what a township tax collector with a quarter century of experience does.  Especially if she’s the treasurer of a tiny itsy bitty township with 482 citizens (make that about 1,600 – 1,700 parcels) during the last few days before taxes are due.

She gets home from her other job at 3:40 and gathers the nine million tax envelopes from the mailbox.  OK, sorry, she has a tendency to exaggerate in her attempt to tell an interesting story.  She grabs the 30-40 envelopes from the mailbox and tramps into the house.  Turns on the computer (with its tax program) in case taxpayers call to inquire breathlessly, “How much do I OWE?  And will you accept it if the envelope is postmarked by September 14th?”

Yes.  I accept postmark.  Just send your property taxes here, stamped by the kindly post office employee, by tomorrow.  If you wait past then…you will be assessed a whopping 1% penalty per month.  If you can afford it, then do what you want.  Pay in March if you like…after the winter taxes are due…and the delinquents are collected by the county treasurer.  It’s all up to you.

Today I lay on the couch (OK, after quickly checking email) and put da feet up in the air.  That’s because we bought a couch which is too short a few years back.  My beloved husband lay on the couch in the store and announced, “Yep, the couch is long enough!”  I believed him.  Until arriving home and lying on the beautiful new couch.  It was nowhere near long enough.  If you put the head flat on the pillow, the feet stick way up in the air and over the end.  Lesson #2585 in life:  lie on the couch yourself before you purchase it.

But I prevaricate.  Where was I? 

Ahh, yes, feet in the air, snoozing.

The phone rings.

A taxpayer, of course.

“Can I come over and pay taxes?” 

“Yes, of course.  When will you be here?”

“About a half hour.”

“Great, see you then.  By the way, do you know where we’re located?”

“I know where you live,” she said.

Hmmm…well we don’t have long to ponder who this might be.

Another taxpayer arrives with check in hand.

“How old is your Studebaker?” he asks, peering at the old car in the woods. 

“I have no idea,” I said, “but Barry is outside and he should know.”

He gets his receipt and departs.  I see him and Barry in deep conversation in the driveway when, suddenly, up pulls a police car!

Who might THIS be?  Don’t we have enough excitement happening this afternoon?

Ahhh….the police car is the first taxpayer.

She comes in the house with her guns and uniform and “POLICE” in big letters on her back.  This is certainly some excitement for the household.

She wants to know what might happen if she doesn’t pay her taxes.  Double hmmm….  It’s a unique situation, not your usual tax situation.  I advise her to call the assessor, the county, anyone but me! 

“I think it’s a new state ruling,” I suggest, trying desperately to recall details. 

She leaves.  I wonder why and how the police officer knew where we lived.

Barry comes in, grinning.

Turns out the second taxpayer–no, no, was that the first taxpayer?  I am confused now–is good friends with his childhood neighbor, a guy who lives over 500 miles away.  Is this a small world or WHAT?  Barry then proceeds to call his parents and share the exciting details.

I retire to the computer with my magic scanner and start beeping at the bar codes.  Entering check numbers.  Backing up data.  Manually recording it in the tax book. 

Ahhh…the excitement of Tax Collecting 101!

I am sure you would all love this job.  You would. 

Now, back to work.  See you all when it’s done.

JUST KIDDING!  Tax collecting is never done.  Late summer payments will continue to trickle in until I send out the winter bills. 

Have all you paid YOUR property taxes? 

Be nice to your tax collector.  Send her (OK, maybe him) sweet notes in with your checks.  Letters are good.  Cards are appreciated. 

Remember:  we tax collectors are human beings, too. 

Now.  For the quiz.  How much penalty per month if you’re late?  If your tax bill is $100.00 and you don’t pay until November…how much do you owe?

About Kathy

I live in the middle of the woods in Michigan's Upper Peninsula. Next to Lake Superior's cold shores. I love to blog.
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31 Responses to Tax Collecting 101

  1. Sue says:

    First…..I think that the penalty for not paying your taxes is that the POLICE have to come and get you. (what they do with you I don’t know)
    Second……I think the answer is….. 2 dollar!
    Am I right?
    🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Sue, I wish I had thought to share that sentiment with the kind police woman. Darn it! What if I had thought to say: The police come to get you! What would she have responded?

      As for your answer: No. You are not right. No one is right! ha ha…I will share the right answer when I’m done answering everyone’s comments.

  2. Dawn says:

    Well if the Police come and get you when you don’t pay your taxes, what happens when the non-payer IS the police? And I agree, the answer is $2. 1% of 100 = $1.00…so $1 for Oct and $1 for Nov… Or is it $1.00 for Sept and $1.00 for Oct? either way, it’s $2…

    • Kathy says:

      Dawn, darn it, wish I had thought to say that to the police. But, then again, maybe the better response was to keep da mouth shut and smile politely. Your answer is not right either…I will reveal the REAL answer at the end of all these blog comments. 🙂

  3. 1% penalty rate on $100 would be $1.

    NOW that I’ve answered your quiz, I want to tell you that the very LEAST I expected from a Tax Collector is a photograph. It could have been a stack of papers and envelopes with a calculator, pencil, eraser … you know … jazzed up to help us get the FEEL of it.

    Better yet, Barry could have taken a photograph of you on the too-short couch with your feet sticking up in the air! 🙂

    • Kathy says:

      Laurie, no, no, no. Laughing. No wonder taxpayers can never figure out how much they owe! OK, Missy, I have been contemplating an answer to your question since reading this yesterday. There was no photograph because I was TOO BUSY!!!! (Yet you ask: but not too busy to write an essay?) Shhhh…. I did look around at my supply of photographs and thought…no, we don’t want flower, grass or outdoor photos. And any stacks of papers in the house looked too…incriminating somehow. OK, OK, I was too tired & exhausted to be creative. Please forgive! (And Barry’s not pleased with my couch commentary, so asking him might have not been apropos…)

  4. Dear Tall Tax Collector, You are hilarious.
    Love and hugs, S

  5. Carol says:

    Well, I would guess if I pay before November 14, I’d owe you $101. If after November 14, it would be $102 (maybe?) or do you charge the 1% on the $101, in which case it would be $102.01?

    And isn’t penalty for not paying at all a lien on your property? It is here. Unless you go 3 years, then they can sell your property at a tax sale.

    Oh gosh, just easier to pay on time.

    • Kathy says:

      Nope! Sorry, Carol, I can’t help grinning. Please scroll on down for the mystery answer. OK, here’s the scoop. Yep, if you don’t pay for three years (the county treasurer collects) it can go up for tax sale. MUCH easier to pay on time. Had at least six folks stop by today with their check in hand. Gosh, it’s fun meeting new people.

  6. I am goning with the 102.01…

    I think we should take up a collection for you to do a 20% add on to the couch….

    Kim

  7. Lona says:

    I do not know what the penalty would work out to be, and I hope I never have to figure it out. =(

    We’ve deferred our taxes for a bit, due to being farmers. Gotta wait for the harvest before we have money to pay the tax collector.

    I actually wish you’d written this post yesterday. Our tax collector wasn’t in the office today, and I got some of these questions (How much penalty if I’m late? Would you accept it if it’s postmarked tomorrow?). Had to shrug and say I didn’t know–call the tax man. I did know the answer to this one, though–can I pay with a credit card? Nope. Not here. Wait a month, and you can pay it at the county with your credit card (and pay a credit card fee, in addition to the penalty).

    Now ask me about elections…

    • Kathy says:

      Lona, you are lucky to get a deferrment. We don’t have ANY farmers in our small township, I don’t think. We’re mostly forest. That is cool that they let that happen.

      I don’t know about other tax collectors. Every township is different. I know our taxpayers can’t pay with a credit card either. Darn it, darn it. I would love to pay with a credit card! That way I’d get more miles for my trips. 🙂 But it’s too expensive for us teeny townships to use credit cards. Darn it again.

  8. Carsten says:

    I could answer the quiz, but now …
    There are no photographs, instead you painted a very clear image of your life as tax collector. I like when my horizon is extended like you just did. Thanks Kathy

    • Kathy says:

      Carsten, I think I should apologize for not having any photographs for YOU!! Here you are, a wonderful photographer, and you came all the way over here to…nothing. You are a good sport. I am glad you were expanded, anyway. Thank you for visiting!

  9. Cindy Lou says:

    🙂 A photo of you on that couch would’ve been fun….and it cracks me up that Suzi calls you “Tall Tax Collector”! Kathy’s not short, Suzi, but she’s definitely not what you’d call tall……the couch must be quite short!

    • Kathy says:

      Ms. Cindy Lou, I can hear you chortling all the way across the bay! No, I am not that tall. 5 foot 6, barely. Unless we lose inches as we age…in which case I am not measuring for a while. I think Suzi was probably commenting on my tall shadow from the previous post–which I posted on Facebook. Tall Shadow. That’s me! (And, darn it, the couch IS short!)

  10. Gerry says:

    I meant to put the check in Sharon’s box last week when I was over at the Township Hall, but I had forgotten to bring the Top Portion of the bill, so the checkbook and I went home. One thing led to another and now here it is September 14. It’s good you reminded me. I would hate to pay the penalty, just on general principles.

    • Kathy says:

      Oh. Yes. You taxpayers DO have to bring the Top Portion of the bill to us. That’s because our scanners whimper without it. I am glad to remind you. Would like to be able to remind every tax payer. It must be sad to have to pay the penalty.

  11. My answer to the question is “I don’t know. How much do I owe?”

    Math is not my strong suit. One error I made always sticks in my mind from when I was working in Government. Fortunately, my colleague was a chartered accountant and caught it before I truly embarrassed myself.

    When I showed my colleague a formula for some program increases, she frowned and mumbled “something is wrong here.”

    As I excitedly rambled about how well the formula worked, she rattled away on her ribbon calculator.

    “There!” she says “the decimal was one over.”

    I replied “shouldn’t matter much should it?”

    “Oh” she replies “you were only out by a million dollars.”

    It was only a 15 million dollar budget. I treated her to lunch that day.

    So if the taxes are due, I pay them quickly, all at once… and hope they haven’t accidentally moved a decimal someplace in their formula.

    • Kathy says:

      Terrill, what a riot! Only out by a million dollars!! Funny!!! It is interesting…so many creative artistic types are absolutely NOT into math or bookkeeping or numbers. I can understand this. You have other incredible gifts!

  12. Marianne says:

    Ahhh!! Nothing like living in a small town … could be a pilot for a sitcom. Thanks for the new word “prevaricate”, I had to look it up in the dictionary.

    • Kathy says:

      Marianne, thank you. It IS a sitcom. Life in a small town is so often a sitcom. Don’t you love the word “prevaricate”?? I do. I like to use it whenever possible. 🙂

  13. Robin says:

    If our tax collector was as funny and nice as you are, I’d be sure to include a nice note with our taxes.

    Math is not my strong suit either so I would just have to copy from someone else to arrive at an answer. But there are different answers so now I’m confused. 🙄

    • Kathy says:

      Awwww….Robin….what a sweet thing to say! I want to think I”m funny and nice. But today a taxpayer got all defensive and negative cuz I said she forgot to pay for one $653.56 parcel. She doesn’t know that I’m nice and funny, darn it. Life is rough sometimes…

  14. Kathy says:

    Are you all ready for the answer? Are you sitting on the edge of your seats? Are you even coming back to read the comments??? (That’s one of my new blog idea topics…does anyone come back to read comments??)

    The answer is… drum roll…. $3.00!!! You have to count September (1%) and October (1%) and November (1%).

    Hardly anyone gets this right. Taxpayers can’t figure it out. Blog readers can’t figure it out. Tax collectors can hardly figure it out, lol! Luckily, the computer software does.

    Feeling like an evil grinning professor…

    • Sue says:

      Well, you are the crafty one now, aren’t you?!
      You didn’t tell us that it would involve instantaneous penalties!
      Sure am glad mine are paid on time.

      (and yes we do come back to read the comments.)
      🙂

      • Kathy says:

        Yep, they count the month of September if the taxes aren’t paid by the 14th. Is it like that in Wisconsin too? Ha ha, now we’ll see if you come back to read the comments AGAIN!

  15. Lona says:

    And THAT is why I’m not a tax collector. I flunk complex math.

    Yes, some come back to read the comments. Very entertaining!

    • Kathy says:

      Lona, I probably would have flunked too if I haven’t done this for so many years! I am glad SOMEONE comes back to read the comments. You are my hero of the evening.

Although I don't reply to every comment on every blog, I do read all comments with mesmerized interest and try to return the favor by visiting YOUR blog or at least sending you heartfelt well wishes.

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