The month of April can mean different things to different people, but to virtually everyone, it means tax time.
Although the Internal Revenue Service has extended this year’s tax filing and payment date for individuals from the traditional April 15 to May 17 as a result of COVID-related delays, the single-payment deadline for all real property and business personal property taxes remains April 30. (Property taxes also can be paid in two installments, by February 28 and June 15.)
Collecting and Distributing Taxes
Arapahoe County Treasurer Sue Sandstrom’s office collects and distributes all County property taxes. The office also acts as the County’s banker, managing cash flow and investing idle funds. Treasurer Sandstrom also serves as the Public Trustee and on the boards of County employees’ defined benefit plan and its 457 retirement plan.
This office bills and collects about $1.2 billion in real and business personal property taxes each year from more than 231,000 taxpayers. The revenue collected is distributed to 466 different taxing districts, including the County’s 13 cities and towns and nine school districts. The Treasurer also distributes specific ownership taxes collected by the Clerk and Recorder’s office for vehicle registrations, and collects and distributes various special assessments, such as the Southeast Metro Stormwater Authority.
The bulk of the County’s funds arrive between February and June, but the County’s cash flow needs are fairly consistent throughout the year, with payroll being the largest ongoing expense. Excess funds that are collected early in the year are invested according to State statutory requirements that only allow investments in very safe, short-term instruments. Those investments are then drawn down throughout the remainder of the year. The County’s reserve funds are also invested to generate additional revenue.
How Taxes are Calculated
Property valuations are determined by the County Assessor’s office, which follows assessment rates that are prescribed by the State. To determine assessed values, actual values are multiplied by the current assessment rate. Mill levies are certified to the County by the various taxing districts and are multiplied by the assessed value to determine the appropriate amount of property tax.
Businesses are required to file an annual Personal Property Declaration if they own personal property worth more than $7,900. If they do not file the declaration, an estimate of the property’s value is used. The amount of taxes owed is determined by multiplying the declaration (or the estimate) by the assessment rate and the mill levy. Arapahoe County exempts a portion of personal property from taxation.
The Payment Process
Taxes can be paid by cash, check, electronic check or credit card, with fees applying to the latter two methods. Taxes can be paid in person (there are secure drop boxes outside virtually all County buildings), by mail, over the phone or online.
Taxes that are unpaid as of June 16 are considered delinquent, and the Treasurer’s office will send notices to delinquent property owners by about July 1. A delinquent interest penalty of 1% per month is added to the tax due. If real property taxes haven’t been paid by early November, a tax lien against the property is sold in an online auction. Unpaid personal property taxes are subject to distraint and seizure of property by the Treasurer. Unpaid personal property taxes may also qualify for a payment plan.
As part of the Public Trustee’s responsibilities, foreclosed properties are auctioned off to the public every Wednesday at 10:00 a.m., in the East Hearing Room in the Administration Building in Littleton. However, there is currently a moratorium until June 30 on foreclosures of federally insured mortgages such as FHA, VA, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.
For more information or to set up an appointment, please visit our website.