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Deadline to pay Lee property taxes nears

March 29, 2018
Fort Myers Beach Bulletin, Fort Myers Beach Observer

Saturday is the last day Lee County residents can pay their real estate and tangible property taxes without being assessed interest and penalties.

The Tax Collector's office is expected to be busy for the rest of the week, especially today, when offices will be open despite the holiday

However, it isn't going to be as busy as it could be - the vast majority of taxpayers have already paid.

As of Thursday morning, more than 90 percent of taxpayers had submitted their taxes. Of the 546,457 parcels in Lee County, only 54,107 had yet to be paid, according to the Tax Collector's Office.

That represents about $65 million of the estimated $1.34 billion the county expects to collect this fiscal year from property and tangible property taxes, according to the office's statistics.

"I don't know exactly why the numbers are so good. I think it's maybe because the economy is good and improved," said Pleshette Mims, executive assistant to Tax Collector Larry Hart.

The majority of parcels are paid in November, as mortgage companies are required to pay those taxes as part of the escrow on mortgages they hold. That escrow is equally divided throughout the year to those who pay mortgages.

Substantial discounts are extended for early payment, up to 4 percent if they are paid when the tax bills go out in November, according to Florida Statute 197.162. The discount decreases 1 percent per month, with no discount in March.

November is the busiest month of the year, as 342,454 payments were received, which represents more than 62 percent, according to the Tax Collector's Office.

Things remain busy in December as people pay their taxes as a way to reduce their income tax burden. Lee residents made 77,691 payments in December.

The number tends to slow to a trickle in January and February before ramping up again in March.

All tax payments are due before April 1, which means they are at least postmarked on March 31.

A 3 percent mandatory interest charge is added to the amount due after April 1. If the taxes remain unpaid, the delinquent property will be advertised once a week for three consecutive weeks prior to the tax certificate sale and the advertising fee will be added to the tax bill.

Taxpayers have an option to pay their taxes in installments. Taxes are paid in three equal payments, with a small discount applied to them. It's too late to apply for this year. To apply for the new tax year, applications must be submitted by April 30.

Customers can also make partial payments, but there is a $10 processing fee and this method is used very rarely.

If the taxes remain unpaid, the property is at risk of having a tax certificate issued. The tax certificate sale is not a sale for the purchase of the property, but rather the purchase of a lien for the delinquent taxes, interest, costs and charges for the property described in the certificate.

The property holder has two years to redeem the tax certificate before he/she is in danger of losing the property.

If the taxes still aren't paid, the certificate holder has to take action on what to do with the home, so they would apply for a tax deed.

At that point, a tax deed is applied for through the Clerk of Court's office. Throughout the process, people are notified and the property owner will still have the opportunity to pay the taxes.

The preferred way to pay is online at the Lee County Tax Collector website:

They accept payments via a credit card or through your bank account. Credit card payments come with a convenience fee.

People can also call the office at 533-6000 and pay over the phone with a credit card, or checks can be mailed to the Lee County Tax Collector, at P.O. Box 850, Fort Myers, FL 33902.

Checks mailed must be postmarked by March 31 to avoid interest penalties.

People can also go to the numerous tax collection offices in Lee County. The Cape Coral office is at 1039 S.E. 9th Ave. and is open from 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Taxes are also due on tangible personal property, which are typically paid by larger companies on assets.

Tangible personal property tax is a tax based on businesses for furnishings, fixtures, signs, supplies, and equipment used in the operation of business, and rental furnishings such as furnishings and appliances provided in a rental unit.

As of April 1, a 1.5 percent penalty, collection fees and advertising fees are added to the gross amount due.



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