BLOOMINGTON — Last year's federal tax law may have brought a lasting new service to some Central Illinois taxpayers.
After several area counties added the ability for residents to pay their next year's property taxes in advance, taking advantage of a federal deduction limited in the tax law that took effect Jan. 1, two will keep that program for 2018.
"It was very successful last year, a whole new thing that ended up being highly successful and brought in taxing revenue, and people got the bonus of it on their income tax this year," said Christine Joesting, Tazewell County's chief deputy treasurer. "We're keeping it due to the taxpayer's response."
The new tax law limited taxpayers' ability to deduct state and local tax payments, including property tax, from their federal tax obligations. Those who paid ahead in 2017 were able to deduct 100 percent of their property tax payments for 2017 and 2018 from their 2017 federal tax bill.
Neighboring Peoria County also added the service in 2017 and will keep it this year, said County Treasurer Nicole Demetreas.
One nearby county is going the other way, though, discontinuing the service with no such law looming in 2019.
"Woodford County did accept prepayment of taxes last December. However, that was under unusual circumstances," noted County Treasurer Melissa Andrews. "We did not accept prepayments prior to that, nor do we plan to accept prepayments in the future."
Pantagraph-area counties took in more than $10 million in early property tax payments last year because of the unexpectedly high demand. Tazewell County Treasurer Mary Burress said her office "had lines out the door for seven solid days."
Several other counties allowed taxpayers to prepay before 2017 and will continue to do so, including Champaign, Ford, Livingston, Logan and Piatt.
"In the past it was so that people could claim it on their income tax. I'm not sure how many we will get this year and going forward since the tax laws have changed," said Livingston County Treasurer Nikki Meier. "However, we will still collect prepayments through April."
McLean and DeWitt counties didn't take prepayments before 2017, in 2017 or in 2018.
Officials said they didn't have time before the end of 2017 to institute a new process for paying taxes and questioned the legality of prepayment.
"There’s nothing in (the) statute which directs the county collector to accept prepayments. ... Counties that are accepting prepayments have made an administrative decision to do so,” McLean County Treasurer Rebecca McNeil said last year. "We take this process very seriously, and we do not want to act in a manner that questions the integrity and validity of that."
"Our policy has not changed," she told The Pantagraph this week. "State and federal law has not changed."