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Officials: To residents rushing to pay 2018 property taxes before the new year, don't

Published Dec. 26, 2017

Florida tax collectors want residents to know this: No, you cannot prepay your 2018 property taxes.

Tax collectors in communities nationwide are seeing a spike in people wanting to prepay their property taxes before 2018 — in an effort to take advantage of tax breaks that will soon be limited under the new federal tax law that goes into effect Monday.

In Pasco County, Tax Collector Mike Fasano estimates that in the past week, his offices have received nearly 100 inquiries from residents who want to know if they can pay now.

The Florida Tax Collector's Association released a memo Friday in an attempt to clear up the confusion.

"No, 2018 taxes may not be prepaid in 2017 in Florida because prepaid installments may only be made once the current year's tax roll is open for collection," the memo said.

Under the new federal legislation, taxpayers who itemize will have a $10,000 limit on tax deductions for all state and local income, sales and property taxes. But these changes may not be felt by Americans until they file taxes in spring 2019 for the 2018 tax year.

The tax bill was signed into law by President Donald Trump on Friday and has been called the most significant U.S. tax code overhaul in three decades.

It's not clear what deductions the IRS will accept. The new law specifically bars taking deductions for income taxes paid ahead of time, but is silent on prepaid local property taxes.

And tax offices in different places have very different positions on whether they would accept prepayments.

Fasano said residents have come to all five Pasco tax collection offices, called the tax department or call center, and even contacted him directly.

A few days ago, while walking his dog, Fasano said he was approached by a neighbor who wanted to know if he could pay his 2018 taxes in 2017. The answer, which came with a smile, was no.

"We wouldn't even know what their 2018 taxes are going to be," Fasano said. "The tax roll does not come out until the summer of next year."

He says there's "no doubt" the offices will get more calls as weeks go on.

The Pinellas County Tax Collector's Office has received between 30 and 60 calls a day asking about prepaying 2018 property taxes, according to office spokeswoman Andrea DiFonte.

"While many financial advisors recommend prepaying 2018 property taxes now," DiFonte wrote in an email, "this is not allowed in Florida."

The state association's memo was clear. Tax payments for 2018 can be made only after the tax roll for that year is opened for collection, usually by Nov. 1.

Paying 2017 property taxes before Jan. 1, however, ensures their full deductibility.

Fasano said "it would behoove people to pay it now."

"It is much better for people to pay their (2017) taxes by Jan. 1 for two reasons," he said.

"One, you'll be able to use that as a deduction when you do your taxes for 2017," Fasano said. "Two, you're going to get a 3 percent discount (for paying in December)."

So far, he said, 95 percent of Pasco property taxes have been paid.

Hillsborough County's tax offices could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this report. Contact TyLisa C. Johnson at tyjohnson@tampabay.com. Follow @tylisajohnson.

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