Busy December: Tax Collector takes in $16 million following federal reform bill

“December was like no other December, ever,” said Tax Collector Jane Berendsen-Hill.

The Ridgefield tax collector’s office took in over $16 million, compared to typical December receipts of $5 to $6 million, Berendsen-Hill told the Jan. 16 Board of Finance meeting.

The early income is nice to have — it may slightly boost interest income — but it isn’t likely to increase the town’s overall tax collections significantly.

“It just means January and April will be less,” Berendsen-Hill said after the meeting, identifying the year’s remaining two big collection months.

The tax collector’s report to the finance board shows that by the end of December her office had collected $84.9 million, almost 66% of a budgeted $129.2 million expected in taxes for 2017-18. December’s take represent almost 20% of the total collected so far.

The cause of the bump in collections was, of course, the passage of a federal tax reform bill in Washington that reduced the amount of local taxes people can deduct on their federal income taxes to $10,000 — starting in 2018. That made December the last chance for many people to pay their Ridgefield taxes and deduct the full amount.

The much-discussed tax bill finally passed late in December, leaving people about a week to pay up and deduct.

“I happened to have someone out that week,” Berendsen-Hill said. “I’m just glad December is over.”

The tax collector said her office refused payments beyond what people owed for the current 2017-18 fiscal year. People could pay back taxes, and current taxes, but she couldn’t accept payments against anticipated but as yet unbilled taxes for the coming 2018-19 year.

“Because of the way Connecticut statutes are written, we refused to take anything beyond what was billed in July,” she said.

“I had one person send me a $30,000 check, and they only owed $7,000. I had to send it back.”