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Economy

IRS Directive Does Little to Clarify If People Should Pay Next Year's Real Estate Taxes Today

photo of tax office
WCPN

Homeowners across Ohio are racing to prepay their 2017 property taxes before year's end, in hopes of qualifying for a federal deduction before it's capped under the new tax law. But the rush is creating a uncertainty for both taxpayers and tax collectors.

Chris Hitchcock is Geauga County treasurer. He says although the county won't mail out tax bills until early January, his office is swamped with folks hoping to save money by prepaying their property taxes now.

"We have people that would like to pay several years of taxes so they can take advantage of the deduction, but the law doesn't allow that," he said.

But here's the thing: what law allows is still  an open question.

The IRS tried to clear this up Wednesday, saying that homeowners can avoid having their 2017 property tax deductions capped at $10,000 if their taxes are paid and assessed this year. 

"The key word there is "assessment" and that would be "What is the definition of 'assessment?'" Lake County Treasurer Lorraine Fende said.

How the IRS answers that question will likely affect which taxpayers will benefit from early-paying and which don't. Either way, both Hitchcock and Fende say there are no plans now to refund payments to those who don't make the cut.