January 10, 2013Stores open up extra checkout lanes on Black Friday and the Post Office has extra help on hand on April 15 to collect all the last-minute tax returns, however, the Guilford County Tax Department apparently felt no need to prepare for an increased number of county residents paying their property taxes in the days leading up to the Monday, Jan. 7 deadline.
At 2 p.m. on that final day to pay property taxes without interest penalties, the line was out the door of the tax collection area in the newly named Independence Center in downtown Greensboro – and only two of the four tax collection windows were open.
On Friday, Jan. 4, the next to last business day to pay taxes in Guilford County, the Tax Department only had three of the four windows open at one point, and, on that day as well, the line was out the door.
It would seem like a no-brainer to at least have all the windows in use to keep the lines down on the days before the payment deadline. It would also seem like a good idea to set up additional temporary payment desks to help out the last-minute taxpayers.
Guilford County Tax Director Ben Chavis said the Tax Department was in fact making extra efforts to speed up the lines given the deadline.
"We are utilizing four cashiers as long as needed," Chavis said in an email on Sunday, Jan. 6, the eve of the deadline to pay taxes. "At least three at all times will be active."
However, word of that policy must not have made it from the fifth floor of the Independence Center, where Chavis' office is, to the first floor, where the collection windows are.
Chavis added that his department was making other efforts to speed up the process.
"We have two revenue collectors assisting the four cashiers by processing taxpayers from the lines that are paying by check," Chavis said.
He also said there are other options citizens can use to pay their taxes.
"We would encourage folks to drop their payments in the mail," Chavis said. "As long as they are postmarked by January 7th, there won't be interest. We also have a payment drop box on the outside of the building."
On Jan. 7 some people waiting in the long line said they had to wait in line rather than use the drop box because they were paying their tax bills in cash.
Chavis said another reason people pay at the windows rather than using the drop box is so they can have a receipt in hand showing they had paid.
At this time one year ago, Chavis and Guilford County Manager Brenda Jones Fox were working hard to have the county's tax office in the Independence building become a DMV license tag agency as well. It would be interesting to see what kind of crowds could have been generated by combining long DMV lines with the recent long lines taxpayers have been seeing.
Despite the wait, county citizens would be wise to take the Tax Department deadlines seriously. That department has been known to begin the process to garnish wages in cases where a taxpayer owed as little as $30, and that minor amount was just a matter of weeks past due.