CAPITAL REGION — There were already people waiting in the bitter cold outside Clifton Park Town Hall when Town Supervisor Philip Barrett arrived for work at 7:15 a.m. Thursday.
It was a sign of how anxious people around the Capital Region have been to pre-pay for their 2018 county and town property taxes before new restrictions on federal tax deductions kick in on Jan. 1.
"Next year, taxes will be higher, and next year you can't take property taxes out," said Clifton Park resident Anil Kumar, after making his payment.
Communities that opened their tax offices to take early payments on Wednesday reported hundreds of people coming forward, gladly making the kind of property tax payment people usually put off until the last minute.
"It's kind of crazy, but you've got to pay them anyway in another month," said Clifton Park resident Kelly Haskins, as she made her way through stations that led to her being handed a tax bill, which she paid even though it wasn't due until the end of January.
Barrett stood among others in short lines in front of several stations set up to handle the tax payment process, with a number complimenting him on the speed with which they got through the lines.
"It's been steady all day," Barrett said.
Thursday was the second day on which Capital Region towns were able to accept tax pre-payments. Some of the towns that started accepting payments on Wednesday reported they were even busier Thursday. Glenville officials announced their tax receiver's office would be open Friday and Saturday, though both would normally be holidays for town employees.
Residents are rushing in to pay their taxes before a $10,000 cap on local income and property tax deductions — part of the new federal tax law — kick in. It's a cap that is expected to hit particularly hard in New York, California, and other high-income, high-tax states. For people who itemize their deductions, the property tax payment is a way to reduce their taxable income.
There remains uncertainty about whether the Internal Revenue Service will allow 2018 payments to be deducted from 2017 taxes, but Gov. Andrew Cuomo has issued — and on Wednesday reiterated — an executive order requiring that counties expedite preparation of the 2018 tax bills, so tax receivers can have them in hand before the end of the year.
Friday is the observed New Year's Eve holiday for Glenville town employees, but Town Supervisor Chris Koetzle said he expects to personally be among the staff accepting payments at Town Hall both Friday and Saturday, when the tax receiver's office will be open 8 a.m. to noon. The town asked that people go online and print out their tax bills, if possible, to expedite the process.
"We're just trying to accommodate residents as best we can," Koetzle said. "This has been extraordinary, in having this situation occurring in a period when there are four town holidays in two weeks, and traditionally this is a time of year when people are taking time off. I'm appreciative of what the town employees have been willing to do to accommodate people. I'm proud of them."
Rotterdam's receiver's office began accepting payments at 1 p.m. Thursday, after the town received the signed tax warrant from the county. The office will also be open from 8:30 a.m. to 6 p.m. Friday, extending its closing time by about 90 minutes in response to anticipated demand.
"We probably received dozens of phone calls every day for the past few days," said Rotterdam Town Supervisor Steven A. Tommasone. He added, however, that he's not sure the IRS is going to ultimately allow the payments to be deductible.
Niskayuna Town Hall also had a steady stream of people coming in, though seldom were they lined up.
"We had 990 yesterday, and it's been busier today," town Tax Receiver Diane Percy said at midday. The office will also be open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Friday.
Thursday was the first day of collections for Clifton Park, though Barrett had announced on Dec. 21 that the town would accept early payments. Collections couldn't start, though, until Saratoga County provided the town with about 14,000 tax bills. Those bills can also be paid during regular business hours on Friday.
On Thursday, the Clifton Park bills sat in shallow plastic mail bins on several tables in a temporarily converted conference room. Two or three town employees were quickly fetching them as taxpayers came in, handing them to other employees who presented them to the homeowners, who then wrote out checks.
"The people in Clifton Park are great," said Paul Spillane, a retired Air Force colonel who doesn't think the additional deduction will ultimately be allowed. "The whole thing is, you've got to pay them anyway."
Barrett said the plan for how to handle the crowds of early payers was thought out over the past week.
"People were showing up with books and newspapers, thinking they'd be waiting an extended period of time," he said. "They were surprised. We don't want people waiting in line."
Most municipalities also have online payment arrangements that will let people pay with a credit card through Dec. 31, though the taxpayers are responsible for any service charges on the transactions.