News

City says paying taxes at bank good enough

By Karena Walter, The Standard

St. Catharines City Hall, photographed on Thursday, July 28, 2016. Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard/ Postmedia Network

St. Catharines City Hall, photographed on Thursday, July 28, 2016. Julie Jocsak/ St. Catharines Standard/ Postmedia Network

St. Catharines residents dinged with late fees after paying their property taxes on the due date at banks won’t have to worry about it again.

The city has stopped its practice of penalizing taxpayers whose payments are on time at their financial institutions but are delayed getting from the bank to the city.

“What we’ve done is made sure that if you pay by the due date, your payment is considered made on time,” said city director of financial management services Kristine Douglas.

City councillors raised concerns in July about late fee complaints from residents who said they paid online or in person at their financial institutions on the June 30 due date, but were charged penalties because the money didn’t make it to the city the same day.

At the time, the city said due dates mean the money has to be in the city’s hands — not just at the bank.

But Douglas said they have since reviewed the practice and looked at comparator cities.

Part of the issue is how fast St. Catharines is now processing payments.

People who pay at the bank on the due date may not have been penalized in the past because it took the city longer to process the payments.

With so many payments coming in electronically now, Douglas said the city is getting faster at processing them.

She said they’ve become more efficient, payments are processed earlier and that’s triggered a penalty for some people.

“When you get more efficient, sometimes you have to re-look at your processes,” she said.

Residents who were handed late fees for payments they made at the bank by the due date can contact the city’s tax division for a review.

Douglas said they’ll review concerns on a case-by-case basis.

The move is the second tweak to the city’s tax payments system this year.

It changed due dates in 2017 to streamline St. Catharines’ billing times with other jurisdictions. Taxes were previously due in the middle of months but are now due on the last business day of the installment months.

Douglas said taxpayers who want to ensure they are never penalized for late fees have the option of enrolling in the city’s preauthorized payment plan.

kwalter@postmedia.com



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