McHenry County treasurer still sorting through more than $31.9M in prepaid property taxes

WOODSTOCK – Glenda Miller’s estimates were a little off.

The McHenry County treasurer guessed she would collect about $20 million in prepaid property taxes from the unprecedented number of residents who flooded her office the last two weeks of December to take advantage of a tax deductions that will be capped under a sweeping federal tax code overhaul signed by President Donald Trump.

But even a week after the deadline passed, Miller and her six staffers are sorting through payments.

“We’re not done,” Miller said. “It’s unbelievable.”

As of Friday night, Miller’s office had delivered $32.8 million in prepaid property taxes to a Harvard bank. The treasurer collected $31.9 million of those funds in the last two weeks of December.

“That’s all we’ve been doing this week,” Miller said.

The treasurer’s estimate about the number of residents who visited her office was a little off, too. Miller guessed more than 6,500 people flooded her Woodstock office – and stood in long lines in the bitter cold – ahead of the Dec. 29 deadline. 

As of Friday, she tallied 3,384 total payments.

Although the treasurer has given property owners the option of paying their taxes early for years, very few McHenry County residents paid early in past years.

In 2014, 40 McHenry County residents prepaid their property taxes, coughing up a total of $363,000. In 2015, that number jumped to 65, bringing $824,300 to the treasurer’s office. In 2016, 54 people paid $650,979.

“It’s unbelievable,” Miller said. “The lobby was full of people, and that’s the way it was for two weeks straight.” 

The treasurer's officer should finish sorting through batches of checks and documents by early next week, Miller said.

The mad dash to the treasurer's office was in response to a provision in a federal tax overhaul bill called the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act – a law that will cap homeowners' property tax deductions at $10,000 for 2018.

Miller welcomed McHenry County residents to prepay their property taxes for up to two years to get the maximum, uncapped deduction, but an IRS advisory warned that filers could avoid the cap only by paying property taxes already assessed in 2017. 

Although Miller expressed confidence that McHenry County residents will be able to deduct their 2017 property taxes, she couldn’t say the same about property taxes prepaid for 2018. She put together a separate folder filled with checks written to pay for 2018 taxes so she could send them back.

About 75 McHenry County residents tried to prepay their taxes for 2018. The treasurer’s office has not tallied a precise dollar amount for those checks, but the payments total between $3 million and $4 million, Miller said. 

Property taxes for 2017 are due in two installments this year – one in June and the other in September.

The money Miller collected will sit in a bank account with 0.49 percent interest until it’s time to distribute that money to tax districts, which include schools, townships, villages and local authorities.

Miller said her staff was able to handle the property tax rush without going into overtime. Her staff worked from 7:15 a.m. to 5:15 p.m. Monday through Friday, she said.

“My girls did a beautiful job,” Miller said.

At 5:30 p.m. Dec. 29, the last day McHenry County residents could pay their taxes early, Miller decided to leave a lock box outside the office in case stragglers decided to visit over the weekend.

Two days later, Miller drove to the office and opened the box.

Inside, she found five payments.

"I honored those," Miller said.

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