Update: Want to pay your taxes on line? Watch out for that "convenience" fee

Posted at: 02/19/2013 12:42 PM
Updated at: 02/19/2013 5:55 PM
By: Berkeley Brean

Maybe you didn't know this but you can pay your town, county and school taxes on line in Monroe County. But beware -- it's going to cost you.

We learned about this through one of our viewers who told us she paid her county taxes on line only to discover that she got charged a convenience fee. She didn't find it very convenient.

It's your money, so we wanted to see if we can help you avoid spending it.

It doesn't matter what tax you're paying -- county, town or school -- it can all be paid on line through the county's website. But in order to do it you have to use your credit card or your bank account and that's where they get you.

It's at the very top of the county's web page. It says -- "view and pay taxes on line." But when you go to the instruction page, that's where you see the fees. If you use your credit card it's 3 percent of your total tax bill. If you pay by electronic check -- directly from your bank account -- it's a sliding scale. For example -- $12 if your taxes are between $1,000 and $2,000.

The county form calls it a "convenience fee."

"Some people love the convenience and they don't mind the charge," Shirley Quinlan, Deputy Tax Receiver for the Town of Gates, said. "Other people say, oh thanks for telling me. I don't want to pay that."

Here's why you have to pay this. Unlike a business -- the county government and your town government are not allowed to cover credit card and banking fees. So they're forced to charge you.

Quinlan says most people pay their taxes the old fashion way, they mail in a check and pay in person. But she says people ask her all the time if they can pay their taxes on line.

"A lot of people want to do the point for airlines and I tell them you're going to pay the 3% charge, you might as well put the check in the mail and save the money," she said.

This isn't a money grab by the county and your town. It's the cost of convenience.

Now -- most people pay their taxes through their mortgage payments. The banks tells us they cut large checks to your municipalities and there is no convenience fee for that.

We talked with several villages today -- Fairport, Hilton, Spencerport -- and their clerks tell us that village taxes cannot be paid on line.