Service of Small Towns: Chaos and The 2017 Republican Tax Bill

January 2nd, 2018

Categories: Big, Small, Taxes


We have yet to see the fallout caused by the Republican tax bill passed so close to year’s end. For one thing, citizens and communities were unprepared, making plenty of mistakes amid chaos especially for those trying to save a buck by prepaying local taxes in states with hefty ones.

In New York State, for example, the governor signed an executive order on December 22, permitting citizens to pre-pay state and local property taxes which many did because of the $10,000 cap that kicks in next year. But this order happened five days before Federal guidelines were posted and plenty of folks moved fast, as New Yorkers tend to do, to take tax advantage one last time so they may not have submitted what they needed so they wasted their time.

The guidelines stated that “those prepayments could be deducted only in limited circumstances, a decision that appeared to invalidate many taxpayers’ efforts and raised the prospect that local governments could come under pressure to refund millions of dollars,” according to Washington Post reporters Peter Jamison, Jeff Stein and Patricia Sullivan.

“‘This is not the way to do legislation that will massively impact the entire economy. It sets off a flurry of action from people trying to save money, and they act as rash as the legislators who pushed this thing through,’ said Philip Hackney, a tax expert at Louisiana State University.”

After the executive order but before the Federal guidelines, local news reported people waiting in the cold for over an hour in certain Long Island towns. When we called our town clerk an administrator gave us the amount and she asked us to get the check to the office by noon two days later, Friday, the last working day of 2017. We could not prepay any of the school tax and had to pay all of the rest [no option, as in some communities, to make a partial payment].

When we spoke, the administrator hadn’t yet been informed, and we didn’t yet know, that to count, we needed the 2018 assessment to accompany the check. We subsequently found that out, once reporters got wind of the guidelines, and in time. I posit that many sent or delivered a check without the bill. Others based the amount of their check on a previous assessment. No go.

The day after we called, we visited the clerk’s office. The staff of two had neat files and boxes filled with bills on tables. Their work hours are only 9 a.m. to 3 p.m., Monday through Friday, and yet they were ready.

This city slicker was impressed at how buttoned up and prepared they were.

Normally, our property tax is paid by our mortgage company—it’s part of what we send them monthly—so we notified the company that we had prepaid. The town clerk’s office will also verify this and we expect the mortgage company will refund our payment. Fingers crossed.

Jamison, Stein and Sullivan wrote that Virginia counties don’t mail their assessments until February [and no doubt counties all over the country are in similar binds]. In addition, “The tax law explicitly states that the $10,000 deduction cap cannot be avoided by prepayment of 2018 income taxes but had left open the question of whether it applied to prepaid property taxes.”

So who knows if prepayment will eventually be disallowed? Think of the mess and confusion refunds and tax revisions would cause.

  • Will the fact that some have prepaid because they could and others can’t, for whatever reason, disqualify all who tried to save money?
  • Will a governor’s executive order count in the end?

This is one tiny example of the fallout from such a sweeping change followed by so little time to implement guidelines. Did those who voted for the bill realize the bedlam they were creating by their last minute vote simply to satisfy their egos to show they got something done in 2017?

In a country where big rules and is most admired, can you think of other instances where small works more efficiently?


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14 Responses to “Service of Small Towns: Chaos and The 2017 Republican Tax Bill”

  1. CG Said:

    I waited on line outside in 16-degree weather for 40 minutes, and inside for another 20 minutes, to prepay my property taxes last Thursday. The entire time I wished I had been carrying a sign that said REPUBLICANS: MOVE TO THE END OF THE LINE.

    The folks working at the tax office were efficient and friendly, despite the fact that they’d had little time to prepare for the crush of taxpayers.

    Note to the GOP: The Blue Wave is coming for you on November 6th. Prepare to drown.

  2. Jeanne Byington Said:


    The tax fallout might just be the thing that tips the scales for the blue wave but what a price to pay. A real estate agent we know in an area where to describe sales as sluggish is too gentle and polite has two jobs that we know of to make ends meet. She is already slammed by taxes and expects her bill to be worse next year. Small fries beware.

  3. david reich Said:

    In my town, Mount Vernon NY, they accepted tax payments up to 5 pm on Friday, Dec. 29, even though local tax payments are normally due at the end of January. But the way the tax “reform” was handled by Congress — or the Republicans in Congress — is a disgrace. To do it in secret with no input permitted by Democrats, and then to rush it through without proper review is disgusting. I think many who voted for change last year will be very surprised when they see their tax bills. The tax bills that most of us will not see — those of the super-rich =- is what is really disgusting. Give the middle class a few hundred bucks in tax relief for a couple of years while multi-millionaires see tax breaks in the hundreds of thousands or more. What a farce. It adds to the deficit and may eventually cut into things like Medicare and Social Security and other programs that help the less fortunate among us. I guess the president and his fat-cat “religious” buddies feel we are no longer our brothers’ keeper.

  4. Jeanne Byington Said:


    Agree. I wish I didn’t. The whole idea that Social Security and Medicare are called entitlements, when millions have contributed $millions over years, drives me nuts. The 1 percent doesn’t need them [and wouldn’t use Medicare anyway as more and more doctors don’t accept insurance]. To them, and they seem to be the only citizens who count to this administration, these are easy and painless cuts.

    I wonder what loopholes corporations are given so that all the bluster about how they will now be taxed on monies made abroad “to make America great again” gets lost in the mist.

  5. Lucan Said:

    I agree with you. It is a delight to be able to deal with small town, instead of big city, authorities over matters such as real estate taxes, but they don’t always get it right.

    About 15 years ago, the powers that be in our relatively homogeneous and affluent community decided that we needed a state-of-the-art high school capable of handling the expected population growth which they supposed would come with continued economic wellbeing. The only trouble was that they, no more than many others, did not foresee the drastic consequences of the technological and demographic changes which were sweeping across the country. Our school population did not grow. It actually shrank.

    The consequence of their having persuaded voters to authorize the town to borrow a lot of money and build a school more than three times larger than what we now need, is we now have a huge tax bill and the potential of bussing.

  6. Jeanne Byington Said:


    A small town with a big bill for a new school makes each resident pay plenty. What I also thought of as I read your comment is that by the time the school is filled, however it ends up getting that way, all the computers and equipment will be considered outdated. Result: More money spent.

    I have always thought that paying for the best teachers is the answer…to heck with the latest equipment and the size of a structure, gymnasium and even science lab. Without the teachers, the rest is a waste.

  7. Martha Takayama Said:

    The whole experience of the outrageous incomprehensible packet of jargon purported to be a tax reform has left me so overwhelmingly confused and depressed that I cannot think of anything positive to say. The people who pushed for and signed it are to my mind an assemblage of self-serving, antediluvian corrupt, cynical fools who signed something blindly which none of them had even read. I just hope that they all receive their just rewards for their collective horrific behavior.

  8. Jeanne Byington Said:


    I once had a client who didn’t care about the quality of the work; she wanted to be able to check off items on her “to do” list. The way this bill was born and passed reminds me very much of her approach.

    In the case of the bill, however, those who signed it know that they are doing harm to most of their constituents in order to get a pat on the back and hopefully a thank you check from the 1 percent and big business, both beneficiaries.

    Frankly I am worried about the ramifications of this bill for John and Jane Q. Public. I do not feel that we are in good, steady, thoughtful hands.

  9. Lucrezia Said:

    Like everything else, the executive order might be subject to litigation, and with the political climate as it is, the guv may win. It might pay to keep in mind that 2018 has arrived, with election day months off. Should the toxicity surrounding this administration remain, this so called tax reform may be repealed by a more competent Congress. .

  10. Jeanne Byington Said:


    From your fingertips to the voting booths of America to God’s ears.

  11. Martin Johnson Said:

    Martin wrote on Facebook: Stock market likes the corporate tax reductions and deregulation already in place. Reductions in withholding will provide apparent relief to many, but it is deceptive and will expire anyway in 10 years. Of course, another congress could rewrite the law, so that may be moot. It is really a mixed bag, but benefiting the “haves” rather than the “have nots.” But, hey, isn’t that the way it was always supposed to be?

  12. Jeanne Byington Said:


    “Heads I win, tails you lose,” said Jackie Gleason to Norton many times on “The Honeymooners” and I keep hearing his words…only they are coming faster and more furiously today.

    I don’t think we will know the impact of the tax bill until the end of 2018. Will the tax reductions to corporations trickle to employees creating a buying frenzy? I doubt it. How much will really arrive in employee wallets–will they be asked to pay a bigger chunk of their health insurance? We don’t know and neither do the folks who voted on the bill. To quote DT, “sad.”

  13. JBS Said:

    My son discovered in Minnesota (where we do have our estimate of 2018 property taxes already) we could pay over the Internet, although I had to make the payment by Dec. 24 so that it would go through in that year. There were long lines (like hours long) at Hennepin County offices. I gave a brief thought to going there and decided I couldn’t stand for that long, so wasn’t going to pay them until they came due. Bill Jr checked the website and when he discovered that I could pay them that way, I jumped on it. I hope it saves us a bundle. Between our state taxes and property taxes, we paid more than $20,000 last year and they didn’t go down this year. Personally, I think that we may not itemize for 2018 taxes because those two items represent a majority of our deductions. The good news is that, in that case, I will not have to pay a tax expert for them. I did them myself until the year I was swamped at work and couldn’t face them.

  14. Jeanne Byington Said:


    You point to fallout I’d not thought of: The impact on accountants. Some will be overworked trying to figure things out but if enough people don’t itemize, then many will lose clients. I have always counted on a CPA…for one, in addition to having jobs that took up most of my time, I don’t have the brains or patience to figure out taxes. I also learned that while an account costs money, he/she always saves more than their fee. And if you are ever audited–I know unemployed people looking for work whose incomes took a plunge who were–it helps to have someone familiar with your financial life help through the process and fight your case.

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