LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WHAS11) – Jefferson County will make around $720 million off property taxes just this fiscal year with the money going to fund the Jefferson County School Board, fire districts and other essential community organizations.
"For all the expenses in their budgets, that is basically their primary funding source is the real estate tax,” Terri Geraghty with the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office said.
Geraghty is the sheriff’s office’s chief financial officer, which means she is in charge of sending out property tax bills. This past November, Geraghty said she sent out 317,000 bills.
"I would say 80 percent to 90 percent of our collections are from November and December,” she said.
The reason why a majority pay in that span is that the deadline to pay property taxes is Dec. 31. Property owners can pay before Dec. 1 to receive a 2 percent discount, but the gross amount must be paid by the year’s end. Those paying after the New Year but on or before Jan. 31 are charged a 5 percent penalty, and those who pay after Jan. 31 are charged a 10 percent penalty and an additional 10 percent fee.
"Does it turn into what is known on April 15 as a certificate of delinquency under the statute? No, but I mean, it is a bill that is due,” Geraghty said.
A local real estate attorney tells WHAS11 News most people do not pay property taxes on time either because they forget to pay or because they cannot afford to when the bill is delivered in November. Many people will place money each month into an escrow through their mortgage payment, which will then be used to pay the property taxes come November.
As for whether some people may strategically choose to pay their taxes late for business or investment purposes, the attorney and Geraghty both said that practice is very rare.
"Most people don't because when you're looking at a 20 percent penalty, that's a pretty hefty penalty, and the state statute sets that up to encourage people to pay,” she said.
Governor Matt Bevin and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer may be the most high-profile Kentuckians found to be late on paying their property taxes, they are not alone. According to Geraghty, there are still around 21,000 people in Jefferson County who have not paid yet.
If people wait until after Tax Day in April to pay their property taxes, they could be subject to further penalties from other organizations, like the county clerk’s office and the county attorney’s office.
If bills are not paid by the summer, third-party investors can pay the late amount and earn part of the property, which they can collect interest on. Geraghty said in the most extreme cases, investors can even foreclose the house.