Many Fort Bend and Harris County residents can ease the pain of paying property taxes this year, thanks to Hurricane Ike.
While it’s not widely known, the Texas Property Tax Code contains a provision allowing taxpayers whose homesteads were in declared disaster areas to pay their property taxes for that year in four installments.
Hurricane Ike smashed through Galveston County, and the storm was so wide it caused heavy damage throughout Houston and much of Harris, Brazoria, Fort Bend and other Texas counties in September.
Those counties were in a declared disaster area which, according to state law, and the Fort Bend and Harris County tax assessor/collector offices, makes residents eligible for the special installment-payment program.
In this case, the program applies only to a resident’s homestead, and only if that homestead was in a county within the declared disaster area in the wake of Hurricane Ike in 2008. That disaster area includes Fort Bend and Harris counties.
To take advantage of this special tax provision, a resident must pay at least 25 percent of the taxes due on his or her homestead, by Jan. 31, accompanied by “notice to the taxing unit that the person will pay the remaining taxes in installments,” according to Chapter 31.032 of the Texas Property Tax Code.
The remainder of the homestead’s property tax is due in three equal installments, according to the tax code.
Information from Fort Bend County Tax Assessor/Collector Patsy Schultz’s office says the second tax installment is due by March 31; the third installment is due by May 31; and the final installment is due by July 31.
It’s up to the taxpayer to keep track of those due dates. If any of the installments are late, the county tax collectors’ offices will consider the payments delinquent. According to the state tax code, county tax collectors then can levy a 12 percent penalty, plus interest.
State tax code says resident may pay more than the total amount due for each installment, and anything in excess of that total will be credited to the next installment.