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Charging Indiana Property Tax Bills Carries Extra Fees

With this year’s second round of property tax payments due on November 10th, some Hoosiers are facing a new choice: cash or charge? With near-record unemployment around the state, counties are seeing fewer homeowners pay with cash and checks and more with plastic.

But paying by credit card is creating another issue all its own.

Credit card companies always charge a fee for a swipe, but retailers usually pass along the cost by upping prices. But Indiana counties aren’t legally allowed to do this.  So they hire a third party to process the payments and  those companies are charging between two and four percent extra.

Counties could swallow those extra fees, but in an age of plummeting property tax revenue, most, if all not all, are charging taxpayers for the convenience of using their plastic.

Bartholomew County Deputy Treasurer Martha Lake says more taxpayers have little choice but to live off of credit cards, due to tough circumstances.

“This is not a good money time for a lot of people. Say they want to pay with their credit card and they find out there are additional fees. Many people they’re frustrated and I’m sorry for that. A lot of people don’t stick around to hear the whole explanation or they don’t even ask,” Lake said.

And she and others say they’ve heard their fair share of complaints. Monroe County Treasurer Cathy Smith says the fees, which could be in the thousands of dollars depending on the size of the property tax bill, could be the difference between keeping and losing a home.

Still, Martha Lake says there’s no way around the charges

“At this point this is the best we can do to provide that option,” she said. “And many treasurers are doing it exactly like we are. I don’t know of anybody who is not doing it this way under the circumstances, okay?”

But Bartholomew County Deputy Treasurer Rita Carr says some people are trying to use the card payments to their advantage.

“Well, some people want to use their credit cards because they get money back,” Carr said.

Three of the four treasurers interviewed for this story say some of their constituents are opting for the fee as a means to earning airline miles or gifts through their credit provider. Still others prefer the small credit card fee to a five or 10 percent late fee from a county and calculate it’s better to live with the smaller credit card charge…even if it carries the potential of a much higher interest later on.

Daniel Robison

Daniel started as WFIU's Assistant News Director in July 2008. He graduated with a B.A. in history in 2007 and earned an M.A. in journalism two years later. Daniel hosts Ask the Mayor weekly and the occasional Noon Edition. He also hosts Morning Edition on Thursdays, sleepily. Daniel's beats include everything News Director Stan Jastrzebski wants him to cover. And it feels strange to type biography of myself in the third person like this. So that's that.

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