Lines form as property tax bill deadline looms

Dec. 31, 2012 @ 05:11 PM

Lee County government offices have been crowded in recent days with people lining up to pay their property taxes ahead of the upcoming deadline — Monday, Jan. 7.

"Usually, when we come back from the Christmas holiday, we're pretty busy," county Tax Administrator Mary Yow said Monday. "... Today is really one of our busiest days of the year."

People who still need to pay property taxes on real estate or vehicles and other personal property — a list can be found at http://bit.ly/VTKQ9P — can pay by cash or check in person at the county government building at 106 Hillcrest Drive, in a drop box outside or by mail to P.O. Box 1968, Sanford, NC, 27331-1968.

Payments can also be made by credit card or electronic check over the phone, at 1-800-272-9829, or online through http://bit.ly/UgaCHv. The jurisdiction code for Lee County is #4351.

If people don't pay by Jan. 7, interest is added to the bill at a rate of an additional 2 percent for the first month with an increase of three quarters of a percent each month after that. Severe penalties can follow for those who go too long without paying, including having their property seized by the county and sold to the highest bidder. As of Dec. 7, the county had five repossessed properties listed for sale on the county's website.

People who bought new personal property or made improvements or additions to their real estate in the last year are also approaching the deadline to inform the county. Yow said residents must make those reports before Jan. 31, and that anything tax officials discover after then that hasn't been reported will be penalized at 10 percent of its value — compared to the current county tax rate of three quarters of 1 percent.

Concerned citizens can report suspected tax evasion online at the county's website by providing the address of the potential infraction, a description and even any photographs they might have.

If any Lee County residents have questions about tax issues, they can call (919) 718-4661 for listings or (919) 718-4662 for collections. The tax office also operates a help messaging system on the department's website.

The county's property tax rate has stayed the same for the past five years, at 75 cents per $100 of value, but it's up for revaluation in the coming year by the Lee County Board of Commissioners — with the Republican majority promising to lower property taxes. Chatham, Harnett and Moore counties all have lower property taxes than Lee County, and all have lowered their rates at least once in the last five years.

In addition to paying county taxes, people who live in municipalities also pay property taxes to those governments. In Chatham, Harnett, Lee and Moore counties, six municipalities have total tax rates (city and county combined) of more than 1.2 percent. Despite Lee County having the highest county-level taxes, though, five of those six highest-cost cities and towns are in Harnett County. Coats has the highest combined rate, followed by Dunn, then Sanford, Erwin, Benson and Lillington.