The Prince George’s County Council announced Wednesday that it would come out of holiday recess on Thursday to consider emergency legislation allowing residents to prepay their property taxes for 2018.
The county was joining other local jurisdictions trying to help homeowners lessen the impact of a cap on deductions in the new federal tax law.
By Wednesday evening, however, the Internal Revenue Service announced prepayments could be deducted only in jurisdictions that have already assessed tax bills for 2018.
In Prince George’s, county officials said, those tax bills had not been assessed. And so, at about 8:30 p.m., the county canceled its emergency session just as fast as it had been scheduled.
There was widespread confusion over the IRS announcement, with some people saying the guidance was subject to interpretation. On Tuesday, the Montgomery County Council enacted an emergency bill to allow prepayment of property taxes.
But Wednesday night, Montgomery lawmakers took to Twitter to tell their constituents they apparently would not be able to deduct those taxes even if they paid them early.
“Turns out MoCo property tax prepayments are not deductible after all, under guidance issued today by IRS,” tweeted council member George L. Leventhal (D-At Large).
Prince George’s County Council Chair Dannielle M. Glaros (D) said residents had been emailing her office, calling 311 and contacting the county executive’s office to ask about a prepayment option, particularly since Montgomery lawmakers expedited their bill.
“Our thought about this was very similar to Montgomery County,” Glaros said before the IRS announcement. “We were going back and forth on it and I think at the end of the day, residents really want the possibility of this as an option.”
About 4:15 p.m. Wednesday, Glaros said there were still a few of her “colleagues out there that we haven’t fully connected with,” noting that some council members are out of town. Glaros said that to pass emergency legislation, the bill would have to be passed with six votes, rather than a simple majority of five.
"We're all coming from different places to be able to pull this off," she said.
The GOP tax overhaul caps deductions for state, local and property taxes at $10,000, an effort to offset a reduction in income-tax rates for earnings starting in 2018.
"Congress and the president didn't give us much time on this one," Glaros said. "They passed a last-minute tax bill frankly without any hearings. We're all scrambling to do the best we can."