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I'd like to pay the 2018 property taxes for my personal home, as well as my investment property, in the 2017 tax year if possible.

The reason is that, if the federal government revises the tax law and doubles the standard deduction, I effectively won't get any tax benefit from property taxes in 2018, because I wouldn't have enough to deduct to be able to itemize my deductions.

I called the city and asked if I could send them money now. They said no because they don't prepare next year's tax bills until the first week of January.

I'm thinking I'm out of luck, but wondering if anyone has creative ideas on how I could pay some or all of my 2018 property tax bills before the end of 2017. Is there a way to put money in an escrow account and count it as a 2017 payment, for example? Or just write the city a check now, before getting my tax bill?

I know the answer is probably just that there is no way to do this. But I pay about $17k in property taxes, so it is a significant savings if I can deduct it.

By the way, I don't have a mortgage on any of my properties. I just pay the taxes myself, directly to the city.

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    It would be very municipality dependent. As it sounds from talking to tax people there is probably no way you can do this. In Florida one can do this, and you even get a discount for doing so. Taxes are due in April, but you get a 4% discount if you pay in November. – Pete B. Dec 4 '17 at 18:01
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    @PeteB. But that's for "2017" taxes, correct? I believe the OP is trying to pay property tax a year in advance. Which would require that the tax agency has the ability to accept the payment in advance, I presume. An interesting question. – D Stanley Dec 4 '17 at 18:23
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    Would it even be acceptable to the IRS to deduct next year's property taxes this year? I'd check that first. – jamesqf Dec 4 '17 at 18:27
  • OP here. My understanding is that deductible expenses are deductible in the year in which you pay, regardless of when payment is processed. (Similarly, you pay tax on money that you are actually paid each year, not what you invoice for...i.e., work done in 2017 that is not paid for until 2018 generates 2018 income.) My city's property tax bills are due in late January. So if I can pay the $17k in December and deduct it, that's a lot better than paying it next month and not getting an income tax benefit. I'd happily pay a few weeks early if it will save ~$4k on my 2017 income tax return. – painter48179 Dec 4 '17 at 18:37
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    @jamesqf Yes - we get our property tax bill in early December and pay it before the end of the year for this exact reason. – D Stanley Dec 4 '17 at 19:32
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According to the IRS announcement, you can pay property taxes due in 2018 in 2017, and deduct it in 2017 federal tax deductions, only if the tax was assessed in 2017. If your tax hasn't been assessed, you are out of luck.

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Unless your county (or equivalent) has some mechanism to "pre-pay" property taxes then it sounds like you're out of luck. You could try to send them a check for the estimated amount on Dec 31st and see what they do with it. Worst case to me (not being a tax lawyer) is that the check will be rejected and you'd have to amend your 2017 taxes (or wait to file until you determine if the payment is accepted).

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    One thing I wonder is how property tax payments are calculated when you have a mortgage and you pay your property taxes through an escrow account. Under this arrangement, when you go to do your taxes, do you deduct the amount that you put into escrow in the tax year, or do you only deduct what the mortgage holder paid to your municipality on your behalf in a given year? In the former case it seems like there could be a way to put money into some kind of escrow account in 2017 that is earmarked for 2018 property taxes. – painter48179 Dec 4 '17 at 22:20
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    @taxypayer22857 - the escrow account is still your money; you can only deduct the amount actually paid to the municipality. – TTT Dec 5 '17 at 4:04
  • Even though it's strange, I think you're right that despite how much you actually paid in 2017, whether you can deduct the overage depends on whether or not they credit your tax account or refund it to you. – TTT Dec 5 '17 at 4:29
  • Even if you sent a check on Dec 31st, the money technically still wouldn't have been withdrawn from the account until the county/muni/borough/whatever actually deposited the check, so it still wouldn't actually come out of your account until 2018 anyways. – Jason Rush Dec 5 '17 at 6:13
  • @JasonRush We pay our property tax and give to charity on Dec 31, so in my experience writing and mailing a check within the tax year is sufficient to claim the tax deduction. – D Stanley Dec 5 '17 at 14:22

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