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Thursday, June 14, 2007

Tax day quandary

Tomorrow's tax day for a lot of people -- those who have to file quarterly tax returns. A reader we know in a law firm sends along this gem about a quirk in the City of Portland and Multnomah County tax systems:

I just came across a weirdness in the city/county tax system that you might find entertaining. We were sorting out how to handle our quarterly estimated city/county tax payment in view of the departure of a partner when our accountant informed me that there is a penalty if the quarterly payments are not equal, even if the payments cover the taxes for the year. The firm income will be lower than what we thought at the beginning of the year, but we'll incur an apparently modest penalty just because we adjust our quarterly payments to reflect actual income. It just seemed like one of those bureaucratic Portland snags that you find interesting.

I know that the state and Feds have penalties for underpayment of quarterlies, but that seems to be a different matter than penalizing mere differences in the quarterlies.

If our correspondent and his accountant are correct, this is indeed a weirdness that ought to be fixed. Quarterly payments of taxes that are based on the entire year are, by their nature, estimates. If circumstances change during the year, the taxpayer ought to be able to reflect that in the ongoing estimates without penalty. Maybe not in the City That Works (You Over), I guess.

Is there anyone out there -- Revenue Sue, are you on duty, or busy at the Rose Festival -- who can give us the official word on this?

Comments (1)

FWIW ... a specialist told me:

Qtrly. estimate payments are calculated by dividing by 4, the yr's estimate. As derived from prior years' actuals.

So qtr's are treated as 'equal', equal owing, equal payable. Then if a qtr. est. payment is less than that amount, there would 'supposedly' be interest on the 'unpaid' amount. (A later qtr might pay extra to cover the short amount qtr, but the interest still has accrued, meantime.)

The important distinction is that your correspondent's firm is paying 'interest,' not 'penalty.'

The second point told me, is that this only applies for estimateds, not withholdings.

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