In most cases, you must pay your property taxes by Jan. 31. Taxes that remain unpaid on Feb. 1 are considered delinquent. Penalty and interest charges are added to the original amount.
Taxing units must give you at least 21 days to pay after they mail your original bill. If your bill is mailed after Jan. 10, the delinquency date is postponed. You have until the first day of the next month that will provide at least 21 days for paying the bill. For example, if the taxing unit mails your tax bill on Jan. 15, your taxes will not become delinquent until March 1. The delinquency date will be printed on your bill.
Most property owners pay their property taxes before the year's end so they can deduct the payments from their federal income taxes.
If taxes go delinquent in Bell County, the tax collector adds a six percent penalty and one percent interest on Feb. 1. Penalty continues to accrue at one percent per month until July 1. On July 1, the penalty becomes 12 percent. Interest will be charged at the rate of one percent per month, with no maximum.
Private attorneys hired by taxing units to collect delinquent accounts can charge an additional penalty of up to 20 percent to cover their fees. If the delinquency date is postponed, penalties and interest begin accruing on the postponed delinquency date. You will receive delinquent tax notices. The tax collector will send you at least one notice that your taxes are delinquent. They often send additional notices and warnings.
You may have the option to set up an installment plan. Some tax collectors will allow you to pay delinquent taxes in installments for up to 36 months. They are not required to offer this option except on a residence homestead. Before signing an installment agreement, you should know that the law considers your signature an “irrevocable admission” that you owe all the taxes covered by the agreement. You may be sued.
The tax collector’s last resort is to take a delinquent taxpayer to court. Court costs will be added to the delinquent tax bill. Each person who owns taxable property on Jan. 1 is liable for all taxes due on the property for that year. A person who owned taxable property on Jan. 1 can be sued for delinquent taxes even if the property has been sold or transferred since then. You may face problems in selling your property. Each taxing unit holds a tax lien on each item of taxable property.
A tax lien automatically attaches to property on Jan. 1 each year to secure payment of all taxes. This tax lien gives the courts the power to foreclose on the lien and seize the property, even if its ownership has changed. The property then will be auctioned and the proceeds used to pay the taxes. As a result of the tax lien, someone who purchases real estate cannot obtain a clear title until all the delinquent taxes owed on the property are paid in full. If you are buying a portion of a larger parcel of land, check the taxes on the larger parcel. You will not be able to clear a tax lien against your part unless taxes on the whole are paid.