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Property Tax Exemptions for Older Homeowners
Including Veteran, Disabled and Homeowner Exemptions
Date: July 3, 2009
Author: David Smidt, SeniorDiscounts
If you own a home, you may have noticed that your property taxes have been going up over the past couple of years. In the current economy, this can be a devastating burden, especially for those on a fixed income. If you are a homeowner, you should make sure you are applying for all of the property tax exemptions available to you, including senior exemptions.
In the United States, property tax on real estate is usually levied by local government, at the municipal or county level. Many of these municipalities will provide property tax exemptions or other forms of tax help for older homeowners. Below are some examples of the exemptions you might be eligible for and how to go about locating them.
Elderly or Senior Tax Exemptions:
A Senior or Elderly tax exemption essentially lowers the amount of property tax the property owner pays each year, and each municipality will have its own method for providing the exemption. Most commonly, the exemption will provide tax relief by reducing the equalized valuation of the property. In essence, the property owner would be paying taxes on a discounted value of the property.
Elderly or Senior Tax Freeze Exemptions:
Municipalities may also have programs that “freeze” the assessed property valuation, thus allowing the property owner to pay property taxes each year based on a previous and consistent valuation.
Property Tax Deferral Programs:
These programs are typically directed toward low-income elderly homeowners who are unable to pay a large portion (or all) of their property tax. Deferral programs are tax-relief programs that work like loans. They allow qualified seniors to defer all or part of their taxes and special assessments on their primary homes. The loan from the state is then paid back when the property is sold or transferred to an heir.
Tax Assistance for Older Property Owners:
If you are unsure about what exemptions you might be eligible for, contact your local assessor’s office or Department of Revenue. Many municipalities will provide free tax counseling and assistance for older homeowners. They will be able to help you determine what credits and exemptions you may qualify for and how to apply for them.
Other Forms of Property Tax Exemptions:
Elderly and Senior Exemptions may not be the only exemptions for which you can qualify. Municipalities may provide exemptions for Homeowners (typically you must own or have a lease or contract which makes you responsible for the real estate taxes of the residential property; the property must also be used as your principal place of residence.), Returning Veterans, Disabled Veterans, and Disabled Persons. Check with your local assessor’s office to see what types of exemptions are available to you.
Every municipality will have its own set of terms to qualify for Senior or Elderly Exemptions. Below are some of the qualifications you may have to meet and how to locate these exemptions.
The most common age requirement we encountered while researching senior property tax exemptions was for 61 years of age. That is, the property owner had to be at least 61 years of age in the year he/she was applying for the exemption. Some municipalities required that the property owner only be 60 years of age, while others required 65 years of age. If the house is owned jointly, usually only one of the owners needs to be of age to qualify.
We found that low-income requirements are not consistent from one municipality to the next. Many larger municipalities have no such requirements, only that you be of a certain age. Others do have income requirements, and in these cases, they ten to be based on average incomes in a particular area. Homeowners will then have to show that their annual incomes are below the average. Refer to your local assessor’s office for specific information.
Property Ownership and Residence:
To qualify for these types of exemptions, the property will most likely have to be your principal residence. Owners may also have had to reside in the property for a certain time before they can qualify.
Locating the Exemptions:
The best place to start is with a current property tax bill. The bill will list a phone number for the assessor’s office and will also direct you to its web site if one is available. Most large municipalities have all of their exemptions, including associated forms, located on their web sites. Don’t have a recent property tax bill? Try typing in your county and “property tax” into a local Internet search engine or call your local city line for information.
If you think you may be eligible for a Senior or Elderly property tax exemption, and have not claimed it for some time, you may be able to apply for past years. Check with your local assessor to see if you can receive credits for past tax years.
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