CLEARWATER — Because of a bill passed by the Legislature, Pinellas County residents can pay next year's property taxes in installments.
But the program's disadvantages seem to outweigh its advantages — even for people who struggle to pay their bills.
In the past, state law required property taxes to be paid in one lump sum.
But when 2010 tax bills come out this November, anyone wanting to pay over time can fill out an affidavit agreeing to installment terms, Sam McClelland, chief deputy to Tax Collector Diane Nelson , said Tuesday.
The program will work like this:
• The deadline for full payment will remain April 1. Any unpaid taxes remaining after that date will be delinquent.
• Each installment payment will require an extra processing fee of $10.
• People using the installment plan will forfeit any chance to receive a discount by paying early.
Currently, taxpayers who pay their bills in full in November receive a 4 percent discount. December payers get 3 percent, January payers get 2 percent and February payers 1 percent.
No discounts will be paid under the installment program, McClelland said. He gave this example.
A couple who owes $1,000 in taxes pays $100 in November, $100 in December and then pays off the entire $800 balance in January after their federal income tax refund comes in. Even though the entire bill was paid in full by January, the couple would not receive the customary 2 percent January discount because they used the installment plan.
Had the couple squirreled their payments away in the bank or even a cookie jar instead of using the installment plan, they could have paid their taxes off at once in January, received the discount and saved $20.
Details of the installment plan will be posted soon on www.taxcollect.com, McClelland said.