Homeowners rush to pre-pay property taxes after GOP tax bill

CHICAGO (WLS) -- Wednesday was a busy day at county treasurers' offices as homeowners rushed to pre-pay their property taxes in the wake of President Trump signing the GOP's tax bill into law. But there is also confusion.

Taxpayers filing early are hoping to pay now and save later. But for some that strategy may not make sense.

Across the country at typically sleepy government offices there were long lines of eager taxpayers, not just paying on time but early.

"We're seniors. We're on a fixed budget. Thank you, president," said one couple in New York.

In Cook County there were no lines, but the Cook County Treasurer's website is slammed.

"We've always had a prepayment, and we've always had the same 1,700 people every November that go to Florida, California and Arizona, commonly known as snowbirds," said Cook County Treasurer Maria Pappas.

But this year, those snowbirds have been joined by a flock of early birds. Last year there were 1,700 or so property tax prepayments; this year there have been nearly 48,000 so far, a 26-fold increase.

"That's unheard of," Pappas said.

It's all because of the new Republican tax law, which limits deductions for state and local income and property taxes, capping them at a combined $10,000. By paying next year's property taxes now, some hope to save thousands of dollars.

"We know we're going to get it in this year, and we can write it off. But not sure about next year," said taxpayer Stephanie Christensen.

But for some, prepaying may not make sense, especially if your itemized deductions are less than the new standard deduction of $24,000 for married couples or $12,000 for individuals.

"Until people actually see their 2018 tax returns, they won't fully understand how it impacts them," said Elda Di Re, partner in private client services for Ernst & Young.

In response to a flood of questions, the IRS said to claim that deduction you have to have received a property tax bill; you can't just pay an estimate. In Cook County, you can download the bill on the treasurer's website.

And if you think it's confusing now, just wait until April 2018.
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