TOPSHAM — Starting next month, residents will be able to make payments with credit cards at the town clerk and tax collection office.

Use of debit cards could be available within a year, Town Clerk and Deputy Tax Collector Ruth Lyons said on Tuesday.

Lyons said a state law passed almost two years ago allowed credit card company “convenience” fees, which previously would have been paid by the municipality, to be passed to the card holders.

Before, Lyons said, “the municipalities could not charge back to the people (making the payments). … And we had to absorb it, until that law changed.”

The Board of Selectmen approved the addition of payments via credit card last August.

Topsham will accept MasterCard, American Express, Discover and Visa. A 3.95 percent fee will be levied on MasterCard, American Express and Discover transactions. A 3.95 percent fee will also be charged on Visa cards, dropping to 2.95 percent on purchases of more than $100. A flat fee of $2.95 applies to property tax payments. There is no fee for the use of cash or checks.

Lyons said she hopes residents will be able to use credit cards by May 12.

“We probably turn away, on a busy day, 10 people a day, for credit cards,” Lyons said. “They don’t carry cash anymore.”

Motor vehicle registrations, plumbing and building permits, and payments for recreational activities are among the transactions that occur at Lyons’ office.

Topsham is not the first Mid-Coast community to implement the use of credit cards. Brunswick and Harpswell have done so, as has Bath at its treasurer’s office. But Topsham officials wanted to wait until the fee would be paid by the individual making the transaction, Lyons said.

“History has it, in towns this size, it has cost up to $35,000 (a year) in tax dollars for fees,” Lyons said. Topsham’s 2000 population was 9,100.

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

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