The new Tax Collector’s Office website offers extensive functionality to search for properties by owner, parcel or common address, compare property values and sales histories, view and print current and historical tax payments, request a amnesty or apply for a tax clearance certificate. However, you cannot pay your bill. Not yet.
Anyone looking to pay their Virgin Islands property tax online earlier this week encountered a message in red, all caps: ONLINE PAYMENTS WILL BE AVAILABLE IN THE NEAR FUTURE.
Brent Leerdam, the territorial tax collector, said the issue was being resolved and hoped it would be done by the end of the week. But that was not a promise, he warned.
“I’m not going to tell you anything that’s not true,” Leerdam said. “We went live with the new system on June 1 and found that we needed to do more to bring this new payment processor online. We had to make some legal changes and so on. We are at the very end. It must be the last two days if it’s not happening right now, but I expect it to be before the end of this week.
The goal of the deadline is to have the system fully operational well before the property tax due date of August 31, he said.
“We just want to make sure this piece is together. We sent people one-time use credit card authorization forms so they could still make payments rather than using snail mail. But we are trying to set it up and make it work,” Leerdam said.
The new system will be able to accept payments by Discover and American Express in addition to MasterCard and Visa, he said. Owners residing outside the territory will be able to establish payment plans or request an amnesty without having to travel to the territory or call.
“It’s a big plus. Many people have family members who have assets that are in arrears. They will now be able to easily set up a payment plan online and take care of it before we get to final collection actions,” Leerdam said.
Increased access to the Office of the Tax Assessor’s online services and property information gives property owners or potential buyers in the Virgin Islands unprecedented tools, he said. Owners of abandoned homes and properties that have lain fallow for a long time can now easily see what they are owed and make payment plans without even being on the land.
“You have granular transparency that we’ve never had before,” Leerdam said. “The number of delinquent properties has increased, so one of our goals here was, firstly, to make sure we have a system of functions that people can use to further the cause; the second was to educate people about their rights and responsibilities.
The idea for the new website was to make finding and paying taxes as easy and user-friendly as possible. No need to come to the office; no need to call, he said.
“We are very proud of it. It was a big deal that this payment processor was not in line with the rest of the portal, and we had to note that payments can be made quickly. But hopefully this is the last week and hopefully from the beginning of next week we’ll sing a different tune,” Leerdam said.