By Judy S. Engel and Lynn S. Linné
Many taxpayers are asking, “Has the deadline to pay Minnesota property taxes been extended in light of the COVID-19 pandemic?” The answer is no, at least not yet.
Deadline to Pay Property Taxes
Minnesota property taxes are due in two halves. The first half property tax is due May 15, 2020, and the second half is due October 15, 2020. The first half payment will be considered timely if the check is postmarked on or before Friday, May 15, 2020. However, a postmark is a mark from the post office itself. A meter stamp from a home or office is technically not a postmark. Many counties also allow for payment by credit card.
Potential Extension of Deadline to Pay First-Half Property Taxes
Counties do not have the legal authority to extend the actual deadline to pay property taxes. An extension would have to be enacted by the Minnesota Legislature and signed into law by the Governor. Although there are some reports that the Minnesota Legislature is considering enacting such legislation, it has not yet done so.
Alternatively, several counties have adopted or are considering various policies to waive their right to collect interest and penalties on the late payment of the first half property taxes. Many of these policies, however, limit which taxpayers qualify. A common limitation is that penalty and interest abatements are available only to taxpayers who have a total tax liability in that county less than a specified dollar amount. This dollar threshold may remain the same regardless of the number of properties a taxpayer owns or whether the property has a higher assessed value. Before taxpayers consider any potential relief offered by a county, they should carefully review the county’s requirements to confirm that they qualify.
Taxpayers should also be aware that measures taken by counties or the Legislature to extend the deadline to pay taxes could become an inadvertent trap if they are appealing their property taxes payable in 2020 (the deadline for which has been extended from April 30 to May 30 for this year only). Minnesota law contains a statutory dismissal provision whereby a taxpayer’s property tax appeal is automatically dismissed if the first half taxes are not paid by May 15. This dismissal provision currently applies regardless of whether a county has waived its right to collect interest and penalties on a late payment of property taxes. Equally as important, the May 15 deadline contained in the dismissal provision would remain in effect even if the Minnesota Legislature were to formally extend the statutory property tax payment deadline unless the Legislature similarly acted to extend the statutory deadlines contained in the dismissal provision.
Ultimately, we recommend all property owners carefully review the assessor’s website of the county in which their property is located to determine whether the county has enacted any specific policy regarding its collection of the first half property tax obligation. For taxpayers with cash flow concerns, we recommend that they wait to make their property tax payment until May 1, 2020, to allow time to confirm what actions, if any, are taken by counties or the Legislature. However, if taxpayers are appealing their property taxes payable this year, they should be aware that their appeal will be subject to mandatory dismissal if the first half property tax payment is not made by May 15, 2020, regardless of a county’s policy stating otherwise.