Glitch knocks out property tax payments by credit card

A server glitch knocked out the Information Network of Arkansas’ ability to process most online and telephone property tax payments by credit card Monday, prompting Jefferson and several other counties to extend the midnight Monday deadline to pay.

Jefferson County Judge Mike Holcomb issued an emergency order Monday afternoon extending the deadline to pay personal property taxes until midnight Tuesday for residents trying to pay electronically. Those who pay in cash or check were still expected to have payments made by Monday night.

The Jefferson County Tax Collector contracted with INA to receive credit card and online payments and had been inundated with complaints from residents because the state’s network is down, Holcomb said in his emergency order Monday.

The tax collector’s office was unable to receive any payment by credit card.

“The unexpected system failure has caused a hardship for those individuals who are now unable to appear and pay by cash or check by subjecting them to the imposition of penalties and interest for late payment. Therefore, it is hereby ordered on this 15th day of October, 2012, that a waiver of penalties and interest will be granted for any person or entity that makes payment through INA by midnight October 16, 2012. All payments made by cash or check remain due on October 15, 2012,” Holcomb said.

Meanwhile, the problem was expected to affect a fraction of taxpayers since most pay by cash or check, state officials said Monday.

County officials said they noticed that the network was operating extremely slow when they got to work Monday.

Phil Billingsley, general manager of Information Network of Arkansas, which has the state contract to provide the online credit card pay service for county property taxes, said Monday afternoon his

technicians were working to correct the problem.

“Well, we’re still experiencing some problems. We’re trying to get those resolved,” said Billingsley, who said online payments were being received, but very slowly. “We are receiving online payments, some

people are getting errors, but they can go back and retry, sometimes they’ll get through and sometimes they’ll have to retry more than once. We’re trying to isolate the issue.”

Matt DeCample, spokesman for Gov. Mike Beebe, said the governor’s office was aware of the problem, which he said was limited to property tax payments.

“State collections are not affected,” DeCample said.

Ashley, Faulkner, Jefferson, Pulaski, Pope, Sebastian and White counties were among the 43 counties that allow payments by credit card and online that issued emergency orders Monday extending the property

tax payment deadline by 24 hours.

Chris Villines, executive director of the Association of Arkansas Counties, said any county that wished to extend the payment deadline had to receive an emergency order from the county judge.

Pulaski County Treasurer Debra Buckner said said a crowd of about 35 to 40 people jammed her office early Monday afternoon.

“It’s like a zoo over here,” she said. “Tax collections everywhere are at a dead halt on people who want to do e-Check or credit card, which means online, mobile app or calling the 1-800 number.”

Stephanie Stanton, the Jefferson County tax collector, said the system failure was not a major problem for the county’s property tax collections. The county normally collects about $1.6 million in credit card payments from assessments totalling more than $44 million, she said.

Still, taxpayers who do pay by credit card were not pleased that they could not do so Monday, Stanton said.

“People … are upset with us because they can’t get through on the Internet,” she said early Monday afternoon. “We knew (earlier) that it was just slow. Now we can’t get through at all on there. They’ve taken

it completely down.”

For a week, Stanton stationed a worker outside the Jefferson County Courthouse with a drop box to take property tax payments by check to allow taxpayers to avoid having to go through metal detectors to enter

the building. On Monday, the worker also informed taxpayers that they could not make credit card payments at the tax collectors office, Stanton said.

Buckner said Pulaski County normally collects $15 million in property taxes on the final day. For the year, the county normally collects about $12.1 million in credit card payments from assessments totaling

about $364 million, she said.

Miller County Tax Collector Melissa Barnes said her office hardly noticed a problem with tax collections Monday.

“Most of our’s pay with cash or check. There’s really not that big of a percentage that pay with credit card,” she said.