“In this world, nothing is certain but death and taxes,” said Benjamin Franklin in 1789. And he was right.

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Tax collectors have been around since at least 6000 B.C.E. in what is now Iraq. Archeologists have found the first records of organized tax collection in ancient Egypt, from around 3000 B.C.E.

Taxes were generally consumption taxes, poll taxes, or tariffs on imported goods; real estate tax was temporarily imposed only during times of war. As land increased in value, so did the dependence on real estate tax as a means of revenue.

Payment for taxes was made in material, crops, or labor, and money was rarely used. The Tax Collector of yore was the “middleman” between the sovereign and his people. The collector was given a stated amount to be raised, and any overage was his “salary.”

There was little recourse to predations by the collector. Failure to pay could result in prison or loss of title to the land.

In 1776, Adam Smith wrote in The Wealth of Nations that there were four principles of taxation. The second principle reads, “The tax with which each individual is bound to pay ought to be certain, and not arbitrary. The time of payment, the manner of payment, and the quantity to be paid ought all to be clear and plain to the contributor and every other person….”

In New Jersey, municipal tax collectors are bound to follow state statutes. These statutes are quite clear: when taxes are due, how the billing, collection, reporting, and enforcement are handled, and the determination of the amount to be billed are all covered by statute.

The amount of tax charged to each property is determined by the assessed value of the property times the tax rate. Every property in the municipality pays taxes at the same rate. The only difference is the assessed valuation.

The township assessor sets these values. Unlike in the past, the tax collector in New Jersey cannot act as an appraiser, nor vice versa. It is considered a conflict of interest. The collector can answer your questions regarding the amount of tax billed, payment history, et cetera, but cannot answer questions regarding how your property was assessed.

Tax payments are due as stated in the statutes: the first of February, May, August, and November. These dates do not change, and are the same for every municipality in the state. The only difference between municipalities is the grace period date, which may be up to 10 days after the billing date. Weekends and holidays may extend this period to 11 or 12 days. And if billing is late, the grace period must be at least 25 days after the bills are issued.

Statute allows payment to be made in cash, by check, electronically, and via credit card.

Interest and penalties are capped by state statutes as well. Municipalities may set different rates if the rate does not exceed the state cap of 8% for the first $1,500.00 of delinquency. Any balance over the $1,500.00 is charged 18% interest. The rate will remain at 18% until full payment has been made.

Interest begins on the first day of the quarter-the due date- not at the end of the grace period. At the end of the year, if delinquent balances and interest exceed $10,000, the municipality may impose a penalty of up to 6% as well.

Taxes levied on real estate in New Jersey are open public records. Hopewell Township taxes can be found on the Township website hopewelltwp.org. Scroll down on the home page, and click on the tax/utility icon.

These statutes follow the suggestions made by Adam Smith in his second principle of taxation.

Mary Kennedy-Nadzak, Hopewell Township’s Tax Collector, has a degree in Business Administration from Glassboro State College. She worked in the commercial banking field before changing to government service in 1999, when she became the Assistant Collector-Water Utility in Franklin Township, Somerset County. She obtained her Certified Tax Collector license in 2001 and was appointed as a Deputy Collector.

She became the Collector in Waterford Township in Camden County before joining Hopewell Township in 2008. She is a member of the Tax Collectors & Treasurers Association of NJ.

Mary Kennedy-Nadzak can be reached at (609) 737-0605, Ext. 6450 or mkennedy@hopewelltwp.org.

Hopewell Township provided this content.

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