This document, and the “Tax Calculation Checklist” — a companion reference tool that can be downloaded from a link at the bottom of this article — describe the sequential steps which are necessary for calculating tax bills using Pontem’s Tax Administration Software.
If you are a County calculating for local units, the steps in this document need to be completed once for each local unit, except when creating or cloning the Tax Period and Exporting Electronic Tax Roll for all local units. Creating or Cloning Tax Period automatically create a Tax Unit Control Unit record for each Tax Unit. Exporting Electronic Tax Roll for all tax units will automatically create one file for each Tax Unit.
SECTION ONE: “Preparation”
This section, which is the first step in the tax calculation process, describes the preparation work to be done prior to producing a tax roll with up-to-date information.
- Review / Edit Tax Unit Master Info
In Edit | Adjust System Preferences | System Config | Tax Units (and Villages) review and update the existing information for each tax unit. If you are a Local Unit processing your own taxes, you will only have one unit to review. It is especially important to review and update the treasurer’s information as next steps in the process will fetch information from this source.
- Create your new Tax Period, Tax Levy Definitions, and Tax Unit Control Records
After confirming the master information for each Tax Unit is correct, the next step is to create a tax period with tax levy definitions and a ‘control’ record for each tax unit. The control records are often referred to as a ‘Tax Unit Control Record’. They are used to define how tax bills for that specific tax unit will be created.
Unless you have a new database, the standard method is to 'Clone' a tax period from a prior year, and there by clone it's tax levy definitions and it's tax unit control records. See How to Create or Clone Tax Unit Control Records for a New Tax Period for step-by-step instructions.
- Change Default Tax Period
After creating or cloning a new tax period it is typically preferred to have the newly created period as the default tax period throughout the software.
- From the Edit menu, select Adjust System Preferences.
- Open the User Config category and select User Options
- Enter the name of the newly created period in the ‘Default Tax Period’ field.
- Click Apply.
Note: Setting your default tax period to the new period is for efficiency and convenience, but is not required.
- Confirm information is correct for each Tax Unit Control Record
The objective of this step is to review and, if necessary, correct the general information for each Tax Unit Control Record.
General information about the Tax Unit Control Records can be found on the Tax Roll Setup When navigating to this workspace the records will be shown as a list, with one displayed for each Tax Unit and Tax Period. A County calculating taxes will have an entry on this list for each local unit. If you are a Local Unit calculating your own tax bills, you will only have one entry on the list. Selecting a record from this list will take you to the location of the details needing review.
Specific instructions can be found in the article titled Configuring Tax Unit Control Records.
- Import PRE Exemption Updates (before creating tax bills)
Use the Load Parcel Values tool to import ‘PRE Exemption’ updates. For more information on how to use this tool see How to Import PRE Exemptions help article.
NOTE: You can run this Load Parcel Values tool as often as you need before creating your tax bills. It is typically preferred to wait till after the PRE Exemption deadline before creating tax bills. If PRE Exemption changes come in after tax bills are created, you will need to use the 'Edit Tax Bill' to change the PRE on the individual bills.
- Add, Edit, and Delete Calculated Levy Definitions
It is important all calculated levies are correctly defined prior to creating your tax bills. New levies will need to be added, expiring levies need to be deleted, and all others should be reviewed as some Millage Rate adjustments may need to be made due to errors or other last minute changes (elections, typos, new info, late L4029).
Calculated levies are those that are defined prior to calculation - where the tax is a function of a parcel’s taxable value, as opposed to a Special Assessment, where the tax is a flat rate applied directly to the Tax Bill.
Definitions for Calculated Levies can be viewed via the Tax Unit Control Records to which they have been assigned. Users seeking more specifics should refer to the article titled Levy Definitions: Understanding the Rules, Concepts, and Best Practices.
Note: Levy changes and deletions flow to all tax units with which the levy is associated.
SECTION TWO: “Calculation”
Calculating tax bills is an iterative process. It begins with the initial creation of the tax bills and review of the totals to confirm the calculated levy definitions are correct. Once the bills are created a cycle of verifying the totals, adjusting the levy data, recalculating, and re-verifying ensues. This process would repeat until the calculated totals are confirmed to be correct. Only then should you move onto the next type of levy information, where a similar process will repeat.
While it is possible to add all Assessments and verify totals only at the end, we do not recommend this approach as it make errors difficult to isolate.
- Initial Creation of the Tax Bills
Once you are certain levy definitions have been properly configured and the ‘Tax Unit General Info’ is up to date the next step is to create the tax bills.
If you are unfamiliar with the steps required to create tax bills, please refer to the article titled How to Create Tax Bills.
- Verify Calculated Tax Totals
After calculating for a Tax Unit, verify calculated tax bill totals for each Levy. There are a couple reports you can run that should be immensely helpful in finding the totals for comparison. The details of which reports, and how to produce them are supplied in the article Verifying Calculated Tax Totals.
One might ask how, using the reports, can the data be verified? While Pontem staff are equipped to provide advice regarding the function of the software, they cannot know what the totals should be. It is recommended you verify the totals with the source of the levy, whether that be the assessor, county etc…
- Adjusting Calculated Levy Definitions and Recalculating
During the verification process, you may find a levy definition record requires adjustment to further refine its calculation. Post-calculation levy adjustments will require re-calculation.
The steps for editing Levy Definitions is the same post-calculation as it is pre-calculation. However, when tax bills already exist, the system will prompt for recalculation as part of the editing process. Repeat the Verify, Adjust, and Recalculate process until you are satisfied the totals are correct.
- Import Special Assessment Levies
Special Assessments are a unique kind of Levy that is a fixed amount applied to a tax bill after calculation. Specials can either be imported or added manually. The most expeditious way is to import an electronic file containing the necessary data.
Special Assessment import files typically contain columns of parcel numbers, tax codes and dollar amounts to be applied to tax bills. For detailed instruction refer to the article Importing Special Assessments.
Note: While it is true the software will allow for the import of special Levies at any time, it is recommended, for ease of verifying totals, Special Levies not be imported until AFTER the initial calculation and verification of the calculated levy totals.
- Verify Imported Special Assessment Totals
Special Assessments do not use “Taxable Value” to determine the final levy; you will need to balance these levy totals back to the original source of the data. You may find a few reports to be helpful during the verification process. Details can be found in the article Verifying Totals for Special Assessment Levies.
- Manually Add Special Assessments
Special Assessments can come from all sorts of sources. Often they come in a form that cannot be imported, such as a paper list. Special assessments can be added manually to tax billsManually Adding or Editing a Special Assessment
- Verify Levy Totals
The verification process for manually added Specials is the same as imported Specials as described in step 11.
SECTION THREE: “Updates”
In spite of careful preparation, it is inevitable that some minor updates to parcel information happen between the time the time the calculation process begins, and the time the bills are printed. Section three describes minor items that will typically need to be addressed post-calculation that must be in place before exporting the rolls or printing bills.
- Edit PRE Changes (Post-calculation)
As much as all parties try to avoid post-calculation PRE changes, sometimes they are inevitable. Once the tax bills have been calculated you still have the ability to update individual tax bills to account for various types of changes. See How to Manually Edit a Tax Bill.
When making a post-calculation change, the change is applied directly to the tax bill. The editing process also adds a Value History record to the Parcel record, such that there is a new 'Final' value record for the next tax period to reference when calculating for the next period.
Warning: Post-calculation PRE changes are very difficult to verify. Take great care when editing and make your changes with extra vigilance for details.
- Update Names, Addresses & Property Descriptions.
Especially at the county level, changes are being made to parcel information all the time. It is likely some changes have occurred that will need to be reflected on tax bills. Because these changes are likely already in the database, updating the tax bills with this new information is easy.
- To update Names, Addresses and Property Descriptions, navigate to the Prepare Tax Bills
- Select Create/Update Tax Bills.
- Check the box labeled ONLY Update Names, Addresses and Property Records
- Select the Tax Period
- From the drop down, choose All Tax Units/Villages
- Ignore the Parcel Number Range fields
- Click Finish
- Add delinquent notices to bills turned over for collections
PA482 of 2012 is a piece of legislation that requires a taxpayer with delinquencies from prior property tax bills be notified on the current tax bill. Pontem provides a tool that allows this data to be imported and applied to the bills.
The notice which is printed on the bills is defined on the Delinquent tab of the Tax Unit Control Record, the setup of which was completed earlier in step 4 of this process.
For a full discussion on this subject, see the help document entitled: Importing Tax Bill Flags.
- Assign Tax Bill Numbers
For convenience and future reference, tax bills are assigned numbers. These numbers, are sequentially assigned by the program either in parcel order, or in order by the owner’s last name.
Note: Occasionally new bills get added post-numbering, which may cause numbers to be out of order. Numbers out of sequence does not have any negative impact and can be ignored.
- Navigate to the Prepare Tax Bills Click the Tools tab then select Assign Tax Bill Numbers.
- In the resulting window, select the Tax Unit and Tax period for which you want to assign numbers to bills.
- Enter the number you want the numbering to begin with.
- Choose whether to order by owner or parcel number.
- Click Finish.
- If you are processing tax bills for multiple units, repeats steps a through e for each unit.
- Navigate to the Prepare Tax Bills Click the Tools tab then select Assign Tax Bill Numbers.
SECTION FOUR: “Distribution”
Once tax bills are calculated, they need to be distributed. The steps in this section apply differently to Counties vs. Local Units. Which steps you are required to complete within this section will depend upon your circumstance and whether you are a County preparing bills for many units, or a Local Unit preparing your own bills.
- Print Tax Bills
A few sample bills should always be test-printed to ensure the placement and wording of messages, headings, addresses and values are correct. Reviewing bills will often alert the user to mistakes (which are better fixed before the bills are delivered to the recipients). Find a coworker to look things over; it never hurts to have a fresh set of eyes do a double-check.
When printing bills, you will be prompted to complete a report filter to define what tax bills you want to print. Detailed instructions can be found in the article How to Print Tax Bills. Note: By default, and on-screen print preview is displayed prior to sending a report to the printer. With tax bills, the output file is often so large it can take as many as 30 minutes to render the preview, or potentially, create memory issues that would prevent the preview from showing at all. Once you have confirmed the print will be successful by printing and reviewing a small test batch, you should send the main print directly to the printer, and bypass the print preview.
- Print Tax Advice (if desired)
When printing tax bills, the address used for mailing is a function of the TBILL name, which is often a mortgage company or an agent of the property owner. When the TBILL name differs from the owner name, the software has the ability to print a Tax Bill advice to send notice of the bill to the property owner also.
Select the Reports menu and browse to Tax Bills | Bills and Notices to find Tax Bill Advice. Complete the filters as described for step 19 – Printing Tax Bills.
- Export Tax Rolls
Pontem’s Tax Administration software is designed to create export files to distribute to local units (or other entity requesting tax data). Several file types are available to ensure data suitable for the recipient of the electronic file.
- Pontem Format (for local units using Pontem TR for collections)
- Standard ASCII (BS&A)
- Manatron Format
- Electronic Tax Roll Format (mortgage companies)
- Print Receipts (Counties Only)
Most collection software has the ability to print receipts at the time payments are processed so having a pre-printed receipt is not necessarily required, therefore, check with your local units before printing receipts.
Under the Reports menu select Tax Bills | Bills and Notices |Pre-Printed Tax Receipt Form. Complete the filters as described for step 19 – Printing Tax Bills.
- Print Tax Rolls and Alpha List
The tax roll is used as a hard copy of payments made on tax bills. As payments are posted the roll is stamped or marked with the date and of payment. The tax roll becomes the official document to reference for payment status ... that is a carryover from the time when payments (and calculations for that matter) were all done by hand, in the days before computers. The tax printed roll is the official archive.
The Alpha List prints the same information but in order of the Owner’s name. This allows a bill’s parcel number and/or bill number to be easily cross referenced to the Paper Tax Roll.
Under the Reports menu select Tax Bills | Tax Rolls to select rolls to print. The Tax Roll – Landscape report includes a bar code. Complete the filters as described for step 19 – Printing Tax Bills.
Under the Reports menu select Tax Bills | Alpha Lists to find two different Tax Roll Alpha Index offerings. Complete the filters as described for step 19 – Printing Tax Bills.