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Pre-Pay Limbo: Northern Virginia Wrangles with New Federal Tax Law
In Northern Virginia, this led to a flood of prepayments ... Fifter said that Alexandria cannot assess 2018 real estate taxes in 2017. But Fifer and de la Pava said there is still the possibility that the future interpretation of the law could change.
Fifter said the city has always taken pre-payments, but that it was still unclear whether or not it would be deductible for federal taxes.
“If you would like to give us money before it’s due, we will take that, hold it, and apply it to future balances,” said Fifer“We do not have to change our policies or procedure to accept prepaymentsHowever, we can’t tell the individual taxpayer whether there’s any benefit to prepayment.”
In Northern Virginia, this led to a flood of prepaymentsFifer said over 650 people sent in over $6 million in prepayments
“We’ve had one of those weeks around here,” said Carla de la Pava, Arlington County treasurer“It is unexpected and 40 percent of the staff is out on vacation.”
A statement released by the IRS on Dec27 clarified that items were only deductible from 2017 if they were assessed in 2017Fifter said that Alexandria cannot assess 2018 real estate taxes in 2017But Fifer and de la Pava said there is still the possibility that the future interpretation of the law could change
“The jury is still out on whether this will be deductible,” said de la Pava“The IRS has put out something saying it will not be deductibleWe took in over $3 million yesterday alone and people are still making their paymentsIt’s not like they’re buying something on sale they might not use laterIf they have money in the bank, the opportunity cost is fairly lowPeople are taking a chance that maybe something will changeIf you don’t make the payments, you definitely won’t be able to take advantage of it.”
On the last day to make the payment in 2017, de la Pava there were over 1,8000 customers pre-paying $14.7 million in taxes in Arlington.
“Now many want refunds,” said Fifer“We spent that last week and beginning of this week scrambling to accept prepayments, now we’re working to go through the refundsThis puts a significant strain on local governments to receive and now refund this many prepayments.”
While other states have been working to review their tax cycles to accommodate the issue, in Virginia, Fifer said the assessment cycle begins on Jan1 and ends June 15.
“There are experts and tax advisors telling people different things,” said de la Pava“I don’t think there’s any clarityThis bill Congress passed has created a lot of uncertainty and people are responding.”
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