ASK THE TIMES: Pay Property Tax with a Credit Card?

 A reader asks:

 My tax bill says that for a fee, I can pay with a credit card, either on the Internet or by calling (888) 2-PAY-TAX. I went online and discovered the “convenience fee” was $75 for a tax bill of $2,500. But, then I read that if I call or come by the Treasurer’s Office, I can pay by credit card with no fee at all. So why does the City give the option of paying a 3 percent fee when the other option is not to pay the fee? I would be pretty unhappy if I had paid the fee without reading further and discovering the free option.

City of Falls Church Treasurer Cathy Kaye responded:

This is a very timely question, thank you for asking.

The Treasurer’s Office offers Falls Church taxpayers a variety of convenient ways to pay.

For instance, if a taxpayer realizes at 11 p.m. on the date taxes are due that they forgot to pay, they could still make their payment on time by using the internet payment option or through 888 2-PAY-TAX, thereby avoiding the 10 percent penalty charged after the due date. Even with the 3 percent fee, which goes directly to 2-PAY-TAX, the net savings is significant. Although only a small percentage of our citizens use this method, the idea is the availability of this convenience.

The City has never charged a fee for paying with a credit card at the counter or by phone during normal business hours; we are the only local entity that does not charge a fee. Beginning in January 2010, however, all tax payments made by credit card will incur a fee. Whether you call or come to the counter, the fee will apply.

I am working with our bank on what that fee will be, and as soon as negotiations have been completed I will issue a press release. My staff is notifying anyone who comes to the counter or calls in that there will be a fee beginning in January.

Currently, the City pays 1.75 – 3.12 percent for credit card transactions through the Treasurer’s Office. The percentage depends on whether the card is a Visa, MasterCard, American Express, or Discover and what type of card is used. Rewards (miles, points) cards charge the highest percentages, debit cards the lowest. Visa, for instance, has more than 25 different fee levels.

The fee the City pays also varies depending on whether the card is swiped at the counter or if the numbers are punched in while a customer waits on the phone.

There is no fee paid by the City to 2-PAY-TAX, which keeps the 3 percent convenience fee.

It has long been my goal to allow tax bills to be paid directly through the City’s website (for the same fee charged at the counter) and I am pleased that we are moving closer toward that goal.

Have a question about the City that might be on fellow residents’ minds as well? Email your question here, and we’ll try to get an answer.

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Previous ASK THE TIMES questions:
Why Are Purple Bows Tied to Trees?
Why Not Use the Old Red Light Cameras?
Rolling Carts for Heavy Recycling Loads?
Status of Hilton Garden Inn?
Questions about Northgate

By
May 18, 2009 

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