Beaufort County Treasurer Doug Henderson's phone usually rings constantly this time of year as residents struggle to understand their property tax bills.
Some are curious about stormwater fees, homestead exemptions or the difference between assessed value and taxable value.
Most just want to know, "Why is my bill so high?" he said Thursday.
To help demystify the annual tax bills, county officials created a sample bill online with clickable "bubbles" that explain things such as millage, credits and assessment ratios. It also breaks down how a property owner's bill is tallied.
The feature was first posted on the county website about a month ago.
"Basically, it was informational for the taxpayer," Henderson said. "In past years, we would get calls for every little thing on the tax bill. We put it on the Web so people can look at it and point to different things and understand what it is."
This is the first year the county has used the sample bill, and the results have been promising: Tax related inquiries to the department's staff have fallen sharply from nearly 1,200 a month at the same time last year, Henderson said. He didn't have specifics on the number of calls so far this year. Meanwhile, tax collection rates are higher than last year.
"This is the first time we have put it out on the website," he said. "We are just trying to think of new ways to do things different and better."
Tax bills were sent out last month, and property owners have until Jan. 15, 2013, to pay and avoid a penalty. Penalties are added for payments received later than that date.
Bills can be paid online, in person at county treasurer's offices in Beaufort, Bluffton and Hilton Head Island, or at BB&T Bank branches in Bluffton, Beaufort, Hilton Head and Yemassee.
Follow reporter Casey Conley at twitter.com/EyeOnBeaufortCo.
www.bcgov.net. " target="_blank">To see the sample bill: Beaufort County to post tax bills online, Oct. 31, 2012