Mecklenburg services still crippled after cyber hack. So how do we pay our taxes?

Mecklenburg services still crippled after cyber hack. So how do we pay our taxes?

CHARLOTTE, NC (Bruce Henderson/The Charlotte Observer) - Many Mecklenburg County services are still at a crawl following hackers' ransomware attack on the county's computer systems. But property owners won't get a reprieve from the Jan. 5 property tax deadline.

What to do? Mail a check or stand in line to pay uptown. And soon.

What taxpayers may not do because of the hack attack: pay online, or by phone, or at the tax collector's office on Wilkinson Boulevard. (About 20 percent of payments are normally made online or by phone.) In-person payments for real estate and personal property taxes will be accepted only at the tax office at Walton Plaza, which is located at 700 E. Stonewall St.

"The best advice is for taxpayers not to wait until the last day taxes are due to pay," the tax office says. "Pay early to ensure faster processing when systems are fully restored."

The Jan. 5 deadline is set in statutory concrete, the county says. Payments have to be received at the office or postmarked by that date. Late payments are charged 2 percent interest for January and three-quarters of 1 percent every month until the bill is paid.

"Interest and penalties are statutory and will not change due to the outage," the county says. "Tax records will be updated once the systems are restored. Although unique circumstances will be considered, remitting payments well ahead of the deadline eliminates the charges for being late."

The tax collector's service hours for in-person payments are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays. Wait times for in-person payments are longest at lunch time, at the end of the day and when Jan. 5 is closest. Eight people stood in line at 1:15 p.m. Tuesday.

The holidays will slice into the practical time left to pay in person. County offices will be closed for Christmas next Monday and Tuesday and again on Jan. 1.

An even shorter deadline, Wednesday, looms for businesses paying monthly gross receipts taxes such as for room occupancy, food and beverage and rental vehicles. Payments are being accepted only at the Hal Marshall Services Center (700 N. Tryon St.), by mail or overnight express.

The county, which refused to pay hackers their $23,000 ransom demand about two weeks ago, has restored more than 40 computer applications and is testing some tax systems, spokesman Leo Caplanides said. The county posts updates on other services that are still affected.