Thursday, January 30, 2014

Business license renewal deadline Jan. 31

Businesses in Decatur should pay their annual occupational tax by tomorrow. There will be a lengthy grace period for payments during which no penalties or interest will be charged, but businesses should renew by the deadline in order to maintain a valid license.

You can come to City Hall to renew, or you can mail in your renewal materials with the return envelope we enclosed with the invoice we sent you in November.

If you prefer to pay online, go to this site. For the year, select 2014 (except for lawyers, who should select 2013 instead). For the “business name,” enter your business's name it actually appears on your bill. Once you’ve found your record, click “renew” to pay. You'll be prompted to upload your notarized and completed immigration-related affidavits.

Paypal is our payment gateway, but you do not have to have a Paypal account to pay online. You'll want to check out as a guest, then Paypal will give you the option of selecting which type of credit card you want to use.  If you run into any difficulties online, please call us at 404-370-4100 and we'll try troubleshooting it.

Decatur's occupation taxes are levied on persons, partnerships, corporations, or other entities operating or engaging in an occupation, profession, or business within the city limits of Decatur. The City of Decatur uses profitability ratios to assign tax rates to six different classes of business ranging from $195 to $485 annually.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Homeowner associations crackdown on delinquent accounts

Homeowner associations have become more aggressive in the last few years delinquent collections on unpaid fees. A recent Reuters article highlighted a homeowner association in Kentucky that foreclosed on a homeowner for $288 in unpaid fees. The now former homeowner rents the house that she lived in from the person who bought her foreclosed property.

The article mentions that the woman received 30 notices in the mail from the association. One issue that we run into as a taxing authority is that a few delinquent taxpayers like simply ignore the bills or letters that they receive, even if language used gets more severe with each mailing.

That is part of the reason why we don’t limit ourselves to regular mail. Sending certified mail, setting liens, notifying mortgage companies, making phone calls to owners, advertising delinquent accounts in The Champion, and physically posting a notice on the property on a wooden stake prior to the tax sale are methods that we use to try reaching property owners before the delinquency reaches a tax sale scenario.

I’m not sure what methods homeowner associations are using besides mail to get the attention of delinquent owners, but as a best practice I would suggest that a variety of methods before foreclosure, which should be a last resort.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Deducting real estate taxes paid from your income taxes

*Note:  Please contact a tax professional for tax advice*

If you are itemizing deductions on your 2013 federal income tax return, you can deduct property taxes paid on real property (land and structures) that you own.

Local fees are a different matter.  IRS Publication 530 says that “itemized charges specific to property or persons,” cannot be deducted because they are not “taxes,” even if they are paid to a taxing authority.  The publication lays out specific examples of nondeductible fees, stating that “a periodic charge for a residential service (such as a $20 per month or $240 annual fee charged for trash collection)” is nondeductible.

Generally speaking, payments for Decatur’s residential sanitation and stormwater utility, may fall into this category of nondeductible charges.  For a single-family home in Decatur in 2013, the residential sanitation charge was $235, and the stormwater charge was $75.

Other nondeductible payments include penalties and interest on delinquent taxes paid if applicable.

Tax payments toward the five funds listed on Decatur tax bills (capital, DDA, bond, the general fund, and school taxes) are deductible.

If you are deducting real estate taxes paid from your income taxes, you’ll want to keep a copy of your second installment Decatur property tax bill, which is a restatement of your total taxes owed and paid for the year (and a copy of your DeKalb tax bill) in your income tax file.  You can access a bill reflecting your payments or a receipt at

This post is intended solely to bring awareness of the distinction that the IRS draws in its official publications on the real estate tax deduction, and is not intended as instructions on how you should file or how much you should deduct.  Since individual circumstances vary, please contact a tax professional for further guidance.

Monday, January 6, 2014

Two more days to pay without penalty

Second installment real property tax payments and personal property tax payments for 2013 were due by Dec. 20, 2013.  The City of Decatur has offered a grace period during which no penalties and interest have been charged for late payments, but that grace period ends in 48 hours. 

We honor postmarks, so as long as you mail in your payment no later than Wednesday, Jan. 8, no penalties or interest will be added to your account.

Thanks to the 95%+ residents and commercial property owners who have already remitted their payments!