As I write this in October of 2019, my very own Marin County property tax bills just arrived. Well, allow me to reframe that. It is widely understood that our real estate tax bills are issued “sometime in October,” but when you actually receive them in the mail on October 1, it says all you need to know about our Assessor’s intent to get the point across. So with the same procrastination exhibited by most fellow Marin County property owners who will join me in actually paying the bill a few days before a penalty is assessed, I thought it was a ripe opportunity to share some basics on how, when and where to pay our real estate taxes and at the same time avoid the consequences of late payments.
Property Tax Bill Information and Due Dates
Secured property tax bills are mailed in October and payable in two installments:
- First installment due date: November 1
- Second installment due date: February 1
“Now hold on a minute!” you say. “I was told I could pay in December and April!” Well, technically, you can. The late dates for the installments are December 10 and April 10, respectively. And what I’ve noticed after a long career in home finance is that most county residents pay just before these late dates. In fact, if you really want to people watch at the post office and you can’t make it on any given April 15, your next best viewing opportunity is very likely December 10. Late penalties are 10% of the installment amount, so it’s not just a slap on the wrist. State law extends the deadlines above to the following Monday if December 10 or April 10 fall on a weekend, but postmark determines the payment date. If you’re late and don’t include the penalty, the county will send back your original payment.
What About an Impound Account?
If you have an escrow or impound account through which your mortgage lender pays your taxes, your property tax bill will state, “a copy of this bill was sent to a paying agent at their request.” If you are unsure of whether or not your lender has paid your tax installment, you should clarify this with your servicer. They are the folks who send you your monthly mortgage statement. I always advise my clients to let me know if they need help with this — I just feel it’s a service any good mortgage professional should provide, and we handle the “straightening out” of countless, anxiety-inducing property tax questions throughout the course of any year. Note that if you pay your mortgage in full or refinance during the course of any year, you may become responsible for your tax payments even if you’ve impounded all along. Again, call us if we can assist.
How to Pay
Payments may be made via any of the methods below and partial payments are NOT accepted by the Marin County’s Assessor’s office.
- Online: www.marincounty.org/Taxbillonline. You will need the parcel number (APN) from your bill.
- Phone: 1-800-985-7277 using your bill number.
- Mail: Marin County Tax Collector, PO Box 4220, San Rafael, CA 94913-4220
- Office: 3501 Civic Center Drive, Room 202, San Rafael, CA 94903 (Mon/Fri, 9am to 4:30pm)
Remember that if you’re in the loan process and you need to document payment of any installment (which can occasionally be a requirement), you’ll probably need to obtain a receipt by paying at the window.
What About Supplemental Tax Bills?
Great question! The County issues a supplemental assessment when a change in ownership occurs. This bill reflects the difference between the seller’s basis and your new and ongoing basis and you’ll only receive it in that first year of the purchase. Afterwards, the correct tax amount is entirely reflected on your regular bill. The Assessor’s office provides owners with new, previous and supplemental values and you can always call them directly at 415-473-7215.
Every day I work to help people buy and refinance real estate in Marin. Often it’s a challenge for them, mostly due to lack of inventory and high home prices. As the rest of us grouse and grumble about writing our checks to the county, let’s remember that it’s also a privilege to do so.
Read my lips,
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