County: Property tax prepayments prohibited by law

Thousands of taxpayers statewide are calling their local tax collectors to find out one thing: can they prepay their 2018 real estate taxes?

When it comes to Lycoming County and City of Williamsport taxes, the answer is, “No.”

“Pennsylvania laws do not allow prepayment of 2018 taxes,” said Thomas D. Heap, county tax claim director.

Taxpayers nationwide, particularly in high-tax states like California, New York and New Jersey, are looking for ways to prepay in order to take advantage of state and local tax deductions, which will be capped at $10,000 once the new tax plan takes effect in January.

Some areas within the state, such as Allegheny County and municipalities in the Philadelphia region, have adopted resolutions to bypass state law, Heap said.

Despite that, he said Lycoming County will stick to state law.

Chris Miller, of the city treasurer’s office, echoed Heap, saying the city will follow the Local Tax Collection Law.

City Treasurer Nicholas D. Grimes issued a statement Thursday to address the many inquiries his office has received over the past few days.

“During the final busy weeks of the 2017 tax year, our office has received numerous calls from taxpayers in response to the newly passed tax reform bill and news articles concerning prepayment of real estate taxes. In order to best educate our property owners we have responded by sharing and explicating the state Local Tax Collection Law,” he wrote.

He then quoted the law, saying, “It shall not be lawful for any county treasurer, county commissioner or any tax collector, nor for any other person, on his or their behalf, to receive payment or give any receipt for the payment of any taxes that have not been duly assessed and returns of said assessment made according to law.”

In Lycoming County, 2018 taxes are assessed in 2018 and it would be unlawful for our office to collect these taxes prior to that assessment, he explained.

“We cannot begin to issue or take prepayment of 2018 taxes until the 2017 taxes are reconciled, which doesn’t happen until the third or fourth week in January,” Heap agreed. “That is the law I would advise the county on.”

Heap added that there are some Lycoming County property owners who will be affected by the incoming $10,000 cap.

“There might be multiple-property owners, so their accumulated real estate taxes are going to exceed $10,000. There are some residential properties that might exceed $10,000 here in the city or in Loyalsock Township, some of the larger homes,” he said. “However I think most people are understanding of our response indicating the state legislature doesn’t allow (prepayment).”