South Fork Owners Rush to Prepay Property Taxes

East Hampton Town property owners lined up this week to pay their tax bills early, before new federal rules that will limit deductions take effect for 2018. David E. Rattray

The offices of tax receivers around the country were crowded this week with residents seeking to prepay property taxes before recently passed limits on deductions take effect, and offices on the South Fork were no different.

The new federal tax law will limit the deduction on state, local, and property taxes to $10,000. But those who partially or fully prepay their 2017-2018 property taxes before Jan. 1 may claim the full deduction on their 2017 tax returns, a circumstance that sent many, checkbooks in hand, hurrying to Town Hall.

In light of the surge of Suffolk County residents prepaying taxes, County Executive Steve Bellone announced yesterday that the county would augment the clerical staff at the tax receiver’s office. 

“In recent days, tax receivers across Long Island have experienced a significantly higher volume of constituent questions and requests from taxpayers who seek to prepay their next year’s property taxes ahead of the upcoming changes in the federal tax code,” Mr. Bellone said in a press release. “This has also resulted in higher traffic to offices and, in certain circumstances, led various town offices to extend office hours.”

East Hampton Town Supervisor Larry Cantwell said yesterday that the town is seeing “many more people paying their full taxes for next year, as opposed to their partial payment.” Many are using the town’s online payment system, he said, which is “receiving extraordinary activity.” 

The tax receiver’s office is busy, he said, but is “handling the volume.”

On Tuesday, Theresa Kiernan, the tax receiver for Southampton Town, announced extended hours for her office. Though Southampton Town Hall will close early, at noon tomorrow, for the New Year’s Eve holiday, the tax receiver’s office will remain open until 4 p.m. to accept tax payments. 

  “We’ve seen a surge in people looking to pay for the full 2017-18 tax year,” Ms. Kiernan said in a press release. “Each day since the bills went out, we’ve seen two extra trays of mail, and the line is out the door.”

  In East Hampton, new tax bills were mailed out on Dec. 15, and payments — in person, by mail, or online — have been accepted since that day. The tax receiver’s office, at 300 Pantigo Place, is open until 4 p.m. today and until noon tomorrow. However, Becky Rahn, the East Hampton Town tax receiver, said yesterday that payments left through the  office mail slot would be logged in over the weekend. Payments postmarked before Jan. 1 or made online before that date will also count toward the 2017 deduction.

According to county law, the first installment of property taxes is due by Jan. 10, and the second half by May 31.

However, as Ms. Kiernan noted in her release, “many have been racing to pay as much as possible by the end of the year so they can include the higher amounts on income tax returns for 2017.” Southampton Town tax bills may also be paid online, through that town’s website.

The tax payments being collected cover the period from Dec. 1, 2017, through Nov. 30, 2018; payments for the following fiscal year, 2018-19, are not being accepted, according to the East Hampton Town website. 

The tax receiver’s page of the website provides links to the final property tax roll for this year, as well as other information, including how to sign up and pay taxes online using credit card or electronic checks. 

The town collects taxes earmarked not only for town funds but also for the county and for school districts, fire and library districts, and lighting, water, and special use districts. 

The opportunity to pay taxes before the new tax law sets in does not apply to East Hampton Village, because of its fiscal year, Becky Molinaro, the village administrator, said this week. 

Mr. Bellone said he is making the extra workers available to towns due to the “extraordinary circumstances” and in the spirit of a shared-services collaboration recently forged between the county and local municipalities. “We are all in this together, and I will make available on an as-needed basis our county staff to support the efforts of our local towns as they respond to the influx of residents,” the county executive said in his press release. There will be no cost to the towns for the extra staff.