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Sans action today, equalization property tax set to return

Arizona’s residents face a higher tax bill this year as time is all but out to repeal a property tax that has been suspended for the last three years.

Without legislative action and the governor’s signature, the state equalization property tax is set to come back this year.

Here’s the complication: County boards of supervisors are under a statutory deadline to set property tax rates by the third Monday of August, which is Aug. 17 – today.

That means the temporary suspension will expire and the rate will be used to calculate tax bills that are to be sent out towards the end of this month.

Taxes are due and payable on Oct. 1 although delinquency penalties do not begin to accrue until Nov. 1, but county treasurers prefer to present taxpayers with the bill about a month before taxes are due.

However, there is no statutory deadline by which taxpayers must receive tax bills – only the deadline by which the bill must be paid.

This is apparently what Senate President Bob Burns and House Speaker Kirk Adams had in mind when they asked boards of supervisors for “patience and understanding,” saying efforts are underway to resolve the uncertainty over the property tax’s repeal “within the next few days.”

The two Republican leaders said there have been times when rates have been adjusted or corrected after the deadline to ensure that published property tax statements are accurate prior to Oct. 1.

They noted that budget proposals that have been heard in committee or on the floor included the repeal of the property tax.

Indeed, the repeal of the tax has been a priority for the Republican majority since the beginning of this session.

But the Republican-controlled Legislature and the governor have so far failed to put in place a balanced budget for fiscal 2009.

The Legislature approved and the governor signed four budget bills last month, but those measures brought the spending to about $10 billion without addressing the state’s revenue shortfall.

Gov. Jan Brewer is insisting that the Legislature pass her proposal for a sales tax hike and vetoed a set of budget bills that did not include one.

Republican leaders have tried various ways to pass the sales tax referral, but have failed so far to get the minimum 16 votes for it.

Republican leaders have reached out to individual Democrats to get their support for the sales tax referral.

They failed to convince Sen. Richard Miranda, a Democrat from Tolleson, last week.

Also last week, Sen. Albert Hale, a Democrat from Window Rock, confirmed there was an effort to court his vote.

“They asked what I wanted and I gave it to them,” Hale said.

“It’s probably too much for them or that they found somebody else,” Hale said.

While Hale wouldn’t say what he asked for, the Democrat has consistently fought for revenue sharing between the state and Native American tribes and has discussed the issue on the floor several times.

Under Hale’s S1454, 50 percent of transaction privilege tax revenues collected from sources located on Indian reservations would be distributed monthly to each Indian tribe for telecommunications infrastructure development and other community development projects.

Meanwhile, Maricopa County Treasurer Hos Hoskins told the Yellow Sheet, a sister publication of the Arizona Capitol Times, that his current timetable calls for the printer to start the process on August 18.

He said his staff has told him the data can go to the printer as late as early September so that taxpayers receive their bills before the due date. However, the later the bills are mailed, the less interest revenue the county earns on taxes paid early in the month.

If the Legislature cannot get a repeal of the tax enacted before tax bills are mailed out, administrative complications could arise from having a different rate applied retroactive to bills being printed.

In that event, is unlikely that counties could avoid having the bills reprinted and re-mailed.

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