PEKIN — The Tazewell County Treasurer's Office took in an extra, unexpected $100,000 on Tuesday because of a change in policy.
Officials there, along with their counterparts in Woodford and Peoria counties, are this year letting residents make pre-payments on their property taxes due next year, because of an expected change in federal law.
That change, part of the tax reform package now being debated in Congress and likely to pass and become law before week's end, would cap deductions people can take on real estate taxes they've paid -- making it more financially desirable for some people, though not everyone, to pay ahead this year.
"I was getting so many calls (asking if pre-payment was allowed), and I thought, 'Why are we not offering this service to taxpayers?" Tazewell Treasurer Mary Burress said Tuesday evening. "It's up to them whether they want to pay for it early or not."
Like other treasurers around the state now allowing a pre-payment, she checked first with their software vendor to make sure they could do it, and also consulted the office's auditors and the state's attorney to make sure they were in compliance with the law.
In just the first day they did so, eight residents made advance payments totaling that $100,000 figure, she said.
Still, it's something that individual taxpayers have to weigh doing — both to make sure they have the spare cash to make a payment now, and to ensure it would actually benefit them enough to make a difference on their taxes payable April 15, 2018.
"We're not tax advisers," Woodford Treasurer Melissa Andrews said. "We are advising people to call their tax preparer or accountant prior to paying us."
Initially Andrews had not been planning to offer the service, which isn't a common one for counties around the state, but was swayed by public interest.
All three counties are having residents sign agreements about the advance payments, too.
Because next year's bills haven't been calculated yet, it's possible that people may still owe money, or they may overpay.
They'll receive refunds for underpayment, and will have to cover any underpayment by the time the first installment would usually be due.
Whatever amounts are paid will be put into an interest-bearing account until the tax payment is technically due, beginning in June. Then the payments will be made — and any interest that has accrued will also be paid to the taxing bodies in that taxpayer's district.
Information is available on the websites for each county treasurer.
Both Tazewell and Woodford officials are recommending that people pay in person, and payments must be processed by the close of business on Dec. 29. Tazewell's offices are closed Friday and Monday. Woodford's are closed next Monday and Tuesday. Offices are open until 5 p.m. on workdays, but Tazewell will stop accepting payment at 4 p.m. on Dec. 29 in order to get final payments deposited at the bank before 5 p.m.
Chris Kaergard covers politics and government. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 686-3255. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisKaergard.