Government beat: Counties would like taxpayers to give electronic payment a try

  • Article by: LOCAL GOVERNMENTLAURIE BLAKE
  • Updated: October 11, 2013 - 2:08 PM
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Dakota County property transactions and records director Joel Beckman.

Photo: David Joles, Star Tribune

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With Minnesota property taxes due Oct. 15, counties are encouraging more of us to move to electronic payments — a more cost-effective way to go.

There are several ways to deliver the payment electronically, but most people still pay the old-fashioned way, through their mortgage companies or by check, officials say.

Hennepin County would prefer to receive all payments electronically, said Scott Loomer, the county’s property tax manager. About 41 percent of returns now come by mail. Electronic filings are “a lot more cost-effective for government operations,’’ Loomer said. “The more people do it electronically, the more effective and efficient it becomes.”

Joel Beckman, Dakota County’s director of property taxation and records, suggests people try e-check. “The best deal out there for taxpayers who don’t want to sit and write a check is to go online and use our e-check feature,’’ Beckman said. “And you can time e-check in the best way.”

Laura Manning, Ramsey County’s acting assistant manager of property tax services, said counties talk a lot about how to encourage electronic payments but people are still getting used to it.

“If people pay electronically and they pay correctly and they know how to do it,’’ it works well, Manning said. “But we see people who double pay because they don’t know if the payment went through.’’

If folks don’t wait for confirmation, they may call “in a panic because they paid their property taxes three times.’’For the first half of 2013, about 51 percent of Hennepin property tax payments were paid by escrow accounts handled by mortgage companies. In Dakota it was 50 percent. In Ramsey slightly more payments came in by check: 77,332, vs. escrow payments of 73,353.

Paying taxes with a credit card is also an option, but it carries a service fee of almost 3 percent of the taxes paid — a hefty sum set by the credit card companies, not the counties.

In Ramsey County, 1,123 people paid by credit card; in Hennepin 5,300, and in Dakota 537.

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