Erath County residents who have not paid their property taxes can expect to stand in line this week at the Erath County Tax Assessor’s/Collectors Office to meet the Jan. 31 deadline and avoid penalties.

“If they have waited until the last week, they better be ready to stand and wait,” Jennifer Carey, tax assessor/collector, said. “Every year we have a long line of people waiting to make their payment. To speed things up, they need to have this year’s tax statement, but last year’s statement will work. We accept payment by cash, personal check, money order or cashier's check, but we don't take credit cards over the counter.”

Carey said, however, people can pay their taxes using a credit card by logging into www.texaspayments.net and paying their taxes on-line. Since the payments are through a third-party vendor, there is a convenience fee of 3.2 percent.

Carey said that approximately 62 percent of the taxes had been collected as of Tuesday. She expects that 75 percent to 78 percent of all taxes will be collected by the end of the month.

Penalties are 7 percent starting Feb. 1, which is 6 percent penalty and 1 percent interest, and the penalty increases by two percentage points every month. In March the penalty is 9 percent and in April it is 11 percent.

Carey said the penalty increases to 18 percent plus 15 percent interest in July, which is what pays the tax attorney who steps in and initiates legal proceedings against people who have not paid their taxes.

Carey said it not only costs the taxpayer more if he or she waits until after the Jan. 31 deadline to pay taxes, but it is costly to the tax office as well because more notices have to be printed and mailed February. She said it also increases the work of the tax attorney with more cases to file and more time in court.

"It complicates things when people wait until after the deadline, but eventually we will get the payment," Carey said.

Erath County residents who are at least 65 years of age and who have the over-age-65 exemption can pay their taxes on a quarterly basis. If the taxes are paid quarterly, the first payment is due in January, the second in March, the third in May and the final payment in July."

She said there is no penalty or interest assessed when the payments are made on a quarterly basis, but the only taxes eligible to be paid quarterly are those on property with a homestead exemption. Agricultural land, rental property or business property does not qualify for quarterly payments and all those taxes must be paid by Jan. 31 to avid penalty.

Taxpayers who mail their tax payment should be sure that the payment is postmarked by Jan. 31 to avoid penalty.