Payment of Property Taxes

Owning a home and property taxes. The two concepts go hand in hand. As long as there has been property ownership, there has been a governmental entity charging property taxes. Property taxes vary widely from jurisdiction to jurisdiction -- expect to pay more in New York City than Oklahoma City, and for most oceanfront property than inland settings. Home buyers should carefully consider property taxes as an additional, ongoing expense of home ownership.

Property Tax Deadlines

What about the payment of property taxes? Again, the due date for property tax depends on location. The deadlines vary considerably. Some property taxes are paid annually, and some are paid in two, three, or four installments. Some jurisdictions allow for monthly tax payments. The collection office nearest the property owner will have more information on payment options.
A few of these are:

* Credit card payments
* Extensions
* Discounts for early payment
* Partial payments
* Escrow agreements
* Split payments
In some areas, homeowners pay their property tax through escrow accounts. The tax bill is incorporated with the mortgage payment. Thus, the mortgage-holder pays the tax bill out of these combined funds.

Assessment of Property Taxes

As for how property taxes are assessed - that is the purvey of each jurisdiction's tax assessor. Assessors "value" property for tax appraisal purposes. "Value" can be known as: actual, appraisal and market value, among others.
Most states focus on "market value." Market value is the amount of money a typical, knowledgeable buyer would pay for a given parcel of property. To calculate the market value of a piece of property, an assessor determines if there have been changes in the real estate market where the property is situated.

Taxing Authorities

The responsibility for property tax collection rests almost exclusively with the taxing authorities within local governments. A taxing authority like a county, city, town, hospital, refuse collection, school, or other special district, is a legal entity of the government with elected or appointed officers who serve a distinct geographic area.
Both state and local government agencies are authorized to levy taxes, but the way they conduct assessments, collection, and compliance can differ widely. In some states, a single state agency has primary responsibility for obtaining all appraisals, making assessments, and collecting taxes.

What to expect if you don't pay your taxes

People fail to file tax returns for a variety of reasons -- personal or business problems; feelings of hopelessness or fear due to an extended period of non-filing; anti-government sentiments; or beliefs that the penalty will not outweigh the expense and trouble of filing.

Because the U.S. tax system is based on taxpayers willingly honoring their obligations, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) does what it can to encourage non-filers to voluntarily come forward after a period of not paying taxes. Part of this strategy includes taking a voluntary disclosure into consideration when determining whether to criminally prosecute, negotiating payment installment plans, and reducing tax liability for certain needy individuals.

Whatever your reason for not filing, you may want to consider the following information in order to be prepared for actions that may be taken against you.

Tax Evasion Basics

Knowingly declining to file a tax return, or refusal to pay what is owed after filing a return, can be a criminal violation of the law commonly referred to as "tax evasion." You may have heard about notorious gangsters like Al Capone being convicted of tax evasion, which is often used against those who operate illegal enterprises. But anyone who refuses to file a tax return or pay taxes may be charged with this serious crime.
Keep in mind, however, that it's not the policy of the IRS to prosecute ordinary people who make simple mistakes or whose returns were lost in the mail. It's a question of intent; and although the IRS reserves the right to prosecute those who don't file or pay taxes, they tend to encourage those individuals to come forward voluntarily or work out a payment plan instead of filing charges. The bottom line is that if you cooperate, you're less likely to be prosecuted.

When failure to pay taxes becomes a Crime

As stated earlier, failure to pay taxes or file a return is itself a crime. However, the IRS would rather work with you and reach a settlement before seeking criminal charges. If you derive your income from illegal sources, it is more likely that the IRS will recommend prosecution (and further investigation into illegally obtained income could also result in fraud or racketeering charges). The more blatantly fraudulent your behavior has been, the more likely the IRS is to prosecute you. For example, you would likely be prosecuted for failing to file returns year after year, despite repeated contacts by the IRS.
In order to convict you of a tax crime, the IRS does not have to prove the exact amount you owe. But such charges most often come after the agency conducts an audit of your income and financial situation. Sometimes they're filed after a tax collector detects evasion or fraud. In any event; if the IRS suspects criminal nonpayment (or underpayment) of taxes, it will start with a "primary investigation" to determine whether criminal charges should indeed be filed. If the case progresses, the IRS will initiate a "subject criminal investigation."
The special agent in charge of a particular investigation will work closely with IRS legal counsel to ensure its following protocol and properly identifying the legal issues involved. Finally, the IRS will refer the case to the Justice Department's Tax Division.

Non-Criminal Actions

The IRS has a general policy of not enforcing the filing of returns older than six years, although the IRS may request older records if an audit suggests the need for more data. Generally, the IRS can collect taxes, interest, and penalties for all of the taxes you have owed over the years and has programs in place to identify non-filers. Keep in mind that the filing of a return starts the audit and collection time limits, or statutes of limitation.
If you do owe taxes, you can probably work out an installment plan to pay off your debt. You also may be able to negotiate a settlement with the IRS, depending on your ability to pay, that will significantly diminish your overall tax debt. In some cases, the IRS may owe you money.
The IRS may accept reasonable estimates of charitable contributions, medical expenses, and other deductions. Depending on how complicated your situation and how good your record keeping is, the entire process of clearing up your non-filing status could take as little as a few weeks.

Didn't pay your taxes? Get legal help from a Tax Attorney

Now that you have a pretty good idea of what to expect if you don't pay your taxes, you'll probably want to do what's necessary to avoid the consequences. In some cases, simply coming to the table and expressing a willingness to work out a plan will prevent legal action against you. However, it's usually a good idea to discuss your case with a skilled tax attorney to learn about your options to resolve your tax issues.