With so many people out of work and so many businesses closed amid the coronavirus pandemic, local governments and school districts are bracing for lower tax revenue.
King, Pierce and Snohomish counties pushed the deadline for property tax payments to June 1. Banks that collect property tax with people's mortgages still had to pay the counties by April 30.
King County Assessor John Wilson said he is concerned that with so many small businesses closed right now, some may not be able to pay property tax.
“I don’t know how many, but I think it’s very clear from people I’ve been talking to around the county — you’re going to have some businesses that are simply going to say, 'I don’t care that you gave me an extra 30 days. I can’t make it even with that,’” Wilson said.
And he said for commercial properties, values have dropped a lot this year. He said if an earthquake or flood hits, he has the authority to issue some tax abatement for destroyed property. The economic fallout from addressing the pandemic is having a similar effect for some commercial property owners, he said, but he’d need approval from the Legislature to issue tax abatement for some property owners. That may be something legislators address if they meet in a special session, Wilson said.
Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Mike Lonergan said the county has so far collected 85 percent of projected property tax payments for the first half of the year.
“We do not anticipate a major shortfall in being able to disburse needed funds to the various taxing districts,” he wrote in an email. But, he added, “the real crunch has come on the sales tax side of city, county and state revenues,” as well as decreases in the business and occupation tax and the gas tax for the state.
Wilson said his office has experienced a big jump in the number of people filing for property tax relief.
“In terms of the senior exemption program, which was expanded this year, we have received more applications in the first three months of this year than we typically receive in an entire year,” he said. “We’re just frankly swamped.”
Property tax revenue is a big issue for school districts, which are heavily reliant on that source of funds. More than half of King County's property tax revenue goes to pay for schools.