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What it means to pay property taxes under protest

Posted at 6:19 PM, Nov 18, 2019

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Jackson County residents and property owners will soon receive their tax bills, and those planning to appeal their assessments must still make that payment, according to a local attorney.

Whitney Miller, director of the collections department for Jackson County, said that about 60,000 bills are sent out between Veterans Day and Thanksgiving.

“They should all be out by Thanksgiving so people have 30 days to pay," Miller said.

As 41 Action News has reported, thousands of people are appealing their assessments. The process will drag well into next year; however, taxes are due by Dec. 31.

Sherry DeJanes, an attorney who is representing several people who received property assessment increases, said those filing an appeal should protest “the amount you're having to pay in excess of what you had to pay last year.”

DeJanes said she encourages those who feel their assessment is too high topay their taxes under protest. That means that the amount billed is paid in full, but taxpayers also should send a letter informing the county they will sue within 90 days if they don't get the refund they want.

"If you don't take that step, then your protest is invalidated as if it was never filed," DeJanes said.

She provided a protest letter template for anyone who might need it.

Whether a mortgage company pays the bill or it is done by the taxpayer, the letter must be sent to the collections department before the payment is made or by Dec. 31. The county suggests coordinating with the mortgage company to send the letter.

However, taxpayers do not need topay under protest in order to get a refund. They can only pay under protest if the payment is on-time and in full.

"We want people to be aware that in making that decision, that does mean it's likely to take longer to get a refund," Miller said.

Paying under protest, according to Miller, might not be the best course of action.

"We have to wait that 90 days,” Miller said, “and we also do that on scheduled release because that comes out of a different fund.”

The county issues refunds every other month.

But DeJanes said people should pay under protest specifically because the amount of money in dispute is put into another fund and the county cannot use it until everything is settled.

Paying under protest does not take away the ability to appeal.

DeJanes said many people she has spoken with received a stipulation from the assessor's office right before the Board of Equalization was to hear their formal appeal. It essentially means the assessor's office made a compromise; they won't raise your assessment as high as they originally quoted it, but will settle on an amount close enough to what it was last year. In that case, it's often not worth going forward with an appeal hearing.

The county will likely send 25,000 digital bills to mortgage companies this year on top of the 500,000 paper bills they'll mail out directly to property owners.

Tax bills will not be received via email, but will be physically mailed.

Jackson County will extend its hours from 8 a.m. to noon on the last three Saturdays of December. Taxpayers can bring their check to the Truman Courthouse in Independence.