County tax deadlines loom

CJ-0408-HOUSTON5-3C.jpgCHICKASAW COUNTY – The secret to taxes is deadlines and telling the truth.

And while the government can’t always tell if you are telling the truth, two key deadlines are in April in the form of homestead exemption April 1 and the state and national income tax deadline of April 15.

The Chickasaw County Tax Assessor/Collectors office is busy this month as businesses, industry and individuals make changes in finances that affect their taxes for next year.

“One of our biggest deadlines is the Homestead Exemption deadline at the end of March,” said Sue Ard, Chickasaw County Tax Assessor/Collector. “Claiming this exemption can make a big difference in your tax bill.”

And Ard said while the deadlines don’t changes the factors that determine a tax assessment do.

“We don’t set the taxes, we just send the bill and collect the taxes,” said Ard. “This business is all about property assessment and deadlines.”

Ard said the county’s two other major exemptions apply to those over 65 or someone who has become disabled.

“Once you turn 65 or if you become legally disabled, you can get an exemption on the first $75,000 value of your home,” said Ard. “But in both these cases it is not automatic. The property owner has to request these exemptions to qualify for them.”

Ard said changes in ownership, marital status or additions to the property can also change homestead exemptions and should be reported to the county.

“If the property changes ownership, if you add a new parcel to your property, if there is the death of a spouse, you get married or divorced or if you turn 65, those are things you need to report,” said Ard. “They can and do make a difference in your tax bill.”

And reporting those changes is the law.

Ard said most tax breaks or changes in exemptions can be handled with a quick visit to the tax office in either Houston or Okolona, if paperwork is in order.

Ard said Chickasaw County has more than 30 property tax rates and the assessment can vary depending on what school zone someone lives in, if they live in the city and which supervisor district they live in.

Millage rates also vary from town to town.

Houston’s millage rate is 89.85 and Okolona’s is 114.25.

A one-mill increase in the Houston School District raises $57,000 based on last year’s tax rolls. A one-mill increase in the City of Houston raises approximately $28,000. A one-mill increase in Chickasaw County raises approximately $90,000.

“Anybody who ever has a question about their tax bill or what something means on their tax bill can call us and we can sort it out,” said Ard.

And Ard stressed everyone’s tax bill is different.

“Just because a relative or neighbor pays one rate, does not mean you pay the same thing,” Ard explained. “Your taxes will vary depending on which school district you live, what judicial district you live in and whether you live in the city or county. That’s why we urge people to contact us if they have a question.”

County taxes are set by the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors and city taxes by boards of aldermen in Houston, Okolona, Houlka and Woodland. School taxes are requested by school boards, but ultimately set by city and county governments.

State law allows school trustees to raise ad valorem taxes 4-percent without a referendum. An increase of more than 4-percent requires the issue to be put to a vote, which must pass by 50-percent, plus one vote.

The ultimate taxing authority rests with the Board of Aldermen in Houston, Okolona, Houlka, Woodland and the Chickasaw County Board of Supervisors. Those bodies have traditionally approved school district tax increase under the 4 percent threshold. The law is also rather vague on this tax increase since it also says cities and counties must pass balanced school budgets. Not passing a tax increase could give the district a budget deficit.

The Chickasaw County Tax Office can be reached at 456-3327 in Houston and 447-2242 in Okolona during regular business hours.

 

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