FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
January 9, 2015
PUBLIC FINDS PROPERTY TAX PAYMENTS “LESS TAXING”
SANTA CLARA COUNTY – Just a few weeks after a $15 to $27 fee on paying property taxes by eCheck was eliminated, Santa Clara County taxpayers flocked to this online option when paying their December property taxes. Twice as many people chose to use an online method to pay their property taxes, compared to last year at this time.
The fee was eliminated at a September Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors meeting, on a 3-2 vote in favor of the motion made by County Supervisor Joe Simitian.
“I’m pleased we’re able to treat taxpayers fairly, and maybe drag our county a little further into the 21st century,” said Simitian. “Nobody ‘likes’ having to pay their property taxes, but hopefully this makes the experience a little less painful.”
Santa Clara County Finance Director Emily Harrison reported that “prior to the elimination of the fee, taxpayers were generally paying $15.00 every time they paid by eCheck. By eliminating the fee, taxpayers have saved almost $523,000 in this period alone.”
There was a corresponding decrease in the number of walk-in payments, making the County building a little less crowded for those who did choose to pay in person.
County staff had suggested reducing the existing $15 to $27 fee, and charging just an 81-cent fee to cover the cost of processing the online payment, a dramatic reduction. As Chair of the County’s Finance and Government Operations Committee, however, Simitian suggested that the County waive the fee altogether, and have the County pick up the “really negligible” cost of processing the payments.
Simitian also noted that every taxpayer paying online with an eCheck means “one less hard copy check we have to process at the County” – representing an additional benefit to the County.
In anticipation of the increase in online payments, the County’s Office of the Tax Collector and Information Services Department worked with their contractor to further develop their online payment system.
“Obviously we have to cover our costs,” said Simitian, “but nickel-and-diming people who are trying to pay their taxes seemed counter-productive. People expect to be treated fairly, and charging a fee, however small, to pay their taxes struck me as hard to justify. Given the benefits, eliminating the fee just struck me as a winner all around.”