Yup, it’s that time of year. The days are getting shorter, leaves are falling and — if you own a home in Oregon — you’re about to open your mailbox and find your annual property tax statement.
Is It Yellow or Green?
Tax statements in Oregon are color-coded. This is county’s cryptic way of telling you whether or not you need to write them a check, but I like to think of this as part of my “keep in touch program”, as we get more than a few calls from the past year’s clients that go something like this:
“Oh, hey, hi. So, um, I just got this tax statement in the mail. I thought I was paying taxes in with my mortgage. Do I have to pay it?”
I always answer this question with a question: “Is it yellow or green?”
If your statement is yellow, you’re good (one might even say… “golden”) (heh) (sorry). A yellow bill denotes that your mortgage company has requested a copy and plans to pay the bill for you (or the State, if you have a senior tax deferral).
Any confusion is completely understandable. The darned thing looks like a bill… even says, “please make payment to:” and has a box for “amount paid”. You really have to slow down and scan it closely, to spot the box (usually about halfway down on the left, just above “tax payment options”) that tells you “a mortgage company has requested your statement for payment”.
It’s Green, So I Need to Pay Up
If your statement is green, the county does expect you to pay. To avoid late fees and interest you must pay at least ⅓ of your bill by the 15th of November (or the next business day if the 15th falls on a weekend) (this year the 15th is on a Thursday). If you pay ½ of your bill by the 15th, you get a 1.33% discount on your total bill. If you pay the bill in full by the 15th, you get a 3% discount. Incidentally, if your mortgage company is paying for you, they are responsible for paying, in full and on time, so that you get that 3% discount.
It Should be Yellow but It’s Green
A handful of times a year, I find out one of our clients got a green (“pay up”) bill even though their loan is setup to include their tax payment. If this happens to you, what to do?
First, check your mortgage statement (or log in to your loan servicer’s site) and look for the word “escrow”. If you pay taxes in with your monthly payment, your monthly payment will include an amount (broken out separately) for your “escrow”. There are various things “escrow” can mean, but in this context your escrow is the savings account you’ve been paying property taxes into. If you see “escrow” anywhere on your statement with a dollar amount next to it, your mortgage company has been collecting money from you to pay taxes. We just need to make sure they pass along the money you’ve been giving them to the County.
If you purchased your home this fall (especially in September), dig out your file of papers or that thumb drive from closing and look for the “Closing Disclosure”. Do you see a “hold and pay” or “tax holdback”? Yes? Then all’s well.
At closing, the title company collected money from you to pay this year’s taxes. They’ve probably already mailed the check. And I have a little bonus good news for you: Since back when you closed, the title company didn’t know how much the bill was going to be, they likely collected just a little extra. You could be due a refund of the excess funds. Keep an eye on your mailbox and have fun spending your little windfall. (Dinner out maybe? New light fixture?)
If your payment includes an escrow but your closing statement doesn’t show a tax holdback, it’s time to call your loan servicer. Let them know you got a copy of the tax bill they and see if they need you to send a copy.
Brand New Home This Year?
The method by which new homes are brought onto the tax roll can result in some funky stuff the first tax year or two. Hop over here for some more information. This is an especially important read if taxes are escrowed into your payment and you get a surprisingly low tax bill.
Curious what all rest of those boxes and numbers mean? Here’s a decoder ring for you:
- 1. Key Property Data – Property address, legal description, map number and account number.
2. Ownership and Mailing Address – Names of property owners and mailing address.
According to county records, this is the person responsible for paying this tax statement.
Mailing address changes can be made on the change request form on the back of the statement and can be returned with your payment. Don’t forget to sign any address change request you make.
3. Comparative Tax Values – Market Value (RMV) is the assessor’s estimate of the price your property would sell for as of January 1, 2018. Your Taxable Value is based on your Market Value or Maximum Assessed Value, whichever is lower. And if you are currently receiving a Veteran’s Exemption, it will be noted in this section.
4. Appeal Information – The deadline to appeal your value to the Board of Property Tax Appeals should be listed here. The market value of your property should be the focus of any value appeal.
5. Payment options and Due Dates – As mentioned above, taxes can be paid in full or in thirds. To receive a 3% discount, full payment must be postmarked by November 15, 2018. Payment instructions and schedules are printed on the back of the statement.
6. Allocation of Taxes to Districts – Your tax statement shows the taxes collected for each of the districts in which your property is located. Each district collects a permanent tax rate for ongoing services, plus additional taxes may be approved by the voters. These taxes are shown on your statement as Local Option Levies (LOL, but not the laughing kind) or Bond Levies.
• Education Taxes: Assessed for Portland Community College, your Educational Service District and your K-12 school district.
• General Government Taxes: Paid to cities, regional government, county and special districts.
• Bond Taxes: Finance capital improvements such as school buildings, parks or public works projects that have been authorized by voters.
7. Delinquent Taxes – If you owe delinquent taxes from prior years, this is where you’ll see them. Any delinquent taxes will also be included in your Payment Options (Section #5). Payments will be applied to the oldest tax year first. Taxes identified with an asterisk (*) are subject to foreclosure if not paid on or before May 15, 2019. (Yikes… get on paying those!
8. Total Taxes Due (After Discount) – As discussed earlier, you’ll receive a 3% discount on the current year, as shown here, full payment must be postmarked or received by November 15, 2018. (Returned checks may lose the discount, however.)
9. Payment Stub – If your statement is green, tear off this portion of the stub and return it with your payment in the envelope provided. If you received a yellow statement, you can just tuck the statement away in your records.
Still have questions?
Be sure to head over to the handy-dandy “Links Library” on our site and open up the “Property Tax Information” menu for a growing catalog of links to the county assessors’ sites and other useful property-tax related information. We’ve posted some general information about property taxes and escrow accounts for your reading pleasure.
And of course, email (firstname.lastname@example.org) or call or text us anytime (503-799-3711). We’re at your service would love to answer your questions!
Guaranteed Rate does not provide tax advice. Please contact your tax advisor for any tax related questions.
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