MAIL IN CURBSIDE DROP BOX DOESN’T GET POSTMARKED
Susan and Gary Hart are angry they were forced to pay late fees to Platte County after they learned their personal property tax payment arrived at county offices postmarked three days later than they had dropped it into a mailbox near their home.
The couple, who live north of Weston, say they deposited their county property tax payment in the curbside postal drop box on Saturday, Dec. 31, 2022, the deadline for making such payments. Susan said she and her husband assumed their payment would be postmarked that day.
However, the Platte County Collector’s Office told them it was late since it was not postmarked until Tuesday, Jan. 3, 2023 and therefore was subject to the county’s late fees, Susan said during a recent telephone interview.
There was, of course, no mail service on Sunday, Jan. 1. And the post office and other agencies officially observed the New Year holiday on Monday, Jan. 2.
“I’ve paid my taxes the day before they’re due for years,” Susan Hart said, adding that they never before had received a late penalty for mailing payments on Dec. 31.
However, the couple recently moved to the area from another county and since that time have heard people complaining about residential mail delivery in the area.
“I was not aware of the problem with the mail in Platte County. If hundreds of us are being penalized for actually following the rules, something needs to be done,” she said.
But county officials said they hear from taxpayers every year who are upset that they are being charged late fees despite dropping their payments in the mail on Dec. 31.
“We have to go by the postmark—that’s the law,” Platte County Collector Sheila Palmer said during a telephone interview. She said Missouri state statutes mandate that taxes be paid by Dec. 31. “I can’t make any exceptions,” Palmer said. “That’s against the law.”
Of the county’s approximate 80,000 taxpayers, about 150 are late each year and 2023 is no exception. Palmer said late payers are subject to a two percent interest fee plus a nine percent fee each month, which is based on a percentage of overall taxes owed.
Hart said they were paying taxes on one house and three vehicles, and therefore paid a late fee of approximately $700.
Palmer said many taxpayers are irate when they contact her office about the late fees. Many taxpayers find themselves paying several hundred or even thousands in fees, she said.
A spokesman for the Weston Post Office branch, who declined to give her name, said she received a few complaints this year from those who were charged late fees. She said mail dropped in the curbside box is not postmarked.
In order to receive a postmark on important mail, customers should always bring items into the post office where the items are postmarked in front of customers.
Palmer said collector’s office personnel try to warn taxpayers about late fees by providing information on their website and notifying customers when they call or visit in person. She advised taxpayers to pay taxes a few days before the deadline in order to prevent late fees.
Palmer said it’s difficult hearing from taxpayers every year who are angry about late fees.
“Everybody’s fighting mad,” she said. “And I understand it.”