Understanding Colorado Property Taxes at the Closing Table

Sitting at the closing table trying to figure out how property taxes are calculated at the sale of a property can be quite confusing, especially since most of us aren’t in the habit of buying and selling our homes on a frequent basis. I ran across the following article from Guardian Title in Fort Collins summarizing how property taxes are dealt with at closing especially at this time of the year.

Posted with permission from Guardian Title—

How Property Taxes Impact Your Closing

by Guardian Title

Especially at this time of year, homeowners question how property tax certifications and payments will impact their closing. We’ve summarized this information to refresh you on the process in Colorado.

Counties assess and certify mill levies and tax amounts annually on real property. This process is typically completed the end of December or early in January. Tax notifications are sent out in January, and property owners have two options for payment. First, they may divide the amount into two installments with the first half of taxes due by February 28th and balance by June 15th. Second, they may pay the full amount on or before April 30th.

How does this affect your closing?
Depending on the time of year in which you close, there are several ways in which taxes will be accounted for at closing. One item found on settlement statements is a proration between buyer and seller. Since we pay taxes in arrears, the seller credits the buyer for the portion of the current year in which they have owned the property.

If the closing takes place early in the year before counties have certified mill levies, the closing agent will typically escrow 125% of the prior year’s tax amount (or use the most recent assessed value if higher). Escrows are held until the certified amount is available, taxes are then paid, and any excess amount is refunded to the seller. If the certified amount is available at closing, that amount will be collected and paid upon closing on the seller settlement.

If a lender is involved in the purchase early in the calendar year, they may request a different means of paying taxes other than in entirety by the seller on the HUD-1. Ultimately, the seller will either pay or credit the full amount due to the buyer on the settlement statement with varying line item descriptions.

What happens when tax payments have been sent to the county but not yet processed?
Tax escrows may be collected and held by the closing agent until the treasurer’s office is able to verify payments have posted for the property. Counties may take a few days to post payments near due dates because of the heavy volume. Once verification is received from the treasurer’s office, any excess escrows are returned to the seller.

On occasion, both the lender and closing agent may submit payments to the treasurer’s office particularly near due dates. If this occurs, then either the lender or closing agent will return the tax escrow to the seller after they receive funds from the treasurer. When closings happen near due dates, it may cause additional delay in refunds due to the high volume of payments being processed.

What is the owner’s responsibility in paying property taxes?
Failure to receive a tax notice does not relieve an owner’s responsibility for paying taxes on time. If you are purchasing a property near year end, please note that your tax statement could be delayed to correct for the new ownership. Closing agents and lenders are not liable for such tax payments, it is solely the responsibility of the property owner.

There is a website that lists the names and contact information, including websites, for the Colorado County Treasurer’s offices. Click this link to be connected…http://www.e-ccta.org/CCTA_home_page.htm