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Programs provide property tax relief for seniors, veterans

Posted March 10, 2009
Updated March 11, 2009

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— Skyrocketing property tax assessments have some senior citizens on fixed incomes afraid they'll lose their homes – even though many paid-off their mortgages years ago.

Three tax-relief programs are aimed at helping seniors and veterans keep their homes. These programs are available statewide; for more information click here.

Housing market looks for upswing in 2009 Programs offer property tax relief

Officials, aware that the programs are being under-utilized, have scheduled information sessions to help educate the public about the programs.

“I think sometimes people may feel they have to cut through a lot of red tape to qualify for these programs,” Wake County Revenue Director Marcus Kinrade said.” I want them to understand we are very easy to get to, we are very easy to deal with and will help them if they need help. They just need to be proactive and contact us.”

Under the Elderly or Disabled Exclusion program, the first $25,000 or 50 percent (whichever is greater) of the assessed value for the permanent residence is excluded when a property tax bill is created.

To qualify for this program, applicants must be 65 or older or totally and permanently disabled, total income (including social security, pension, IRA distributions, etc.) for the  applicant and spouse must be $25,600 or less. Unmarried, joint property owners must apply separately.

With the Circuit Breaker Tax Deferment Program, taxes for each year are limited to a percentage of the homeowner’s income. Taxes above the limit are deferred until a future date. The last three years of deferred taxes become payable with interest if a disqualifying event occurs. Transfer of the property and death of the owner are two examples of disqualifying events.

Owners with income at or under $25,600 will have taxes limited to 4 percent of their income. For owners whose income is between $25,600 and $38,400, the owner’s taxes will be limited to 5 percent of their income.

Applicants must be 65 years of age or totally and permanently disabled. The previous year’s total income for both the applicant and spouse cannot exceed $38,400, according to the county’s Web site. Unmarried joint property owners must apply and qualify separately. All owners must have owned and occupied the residence for the previous five years.

Applicants must re-apply for the program annually.

The Circuit Breaker Tax Deferment Program is new. It was approved by the General Assembly for 2009. Kinrade described the program as “complex.”

“We’ve had very few applications for Circuit Breaker,” Kinrade said. “I don’t know if it’s because people don’t understand it or they don’t know about it.”

The third program – the Disabled Veteran Exclusion – is available to honorably discharged disabled veterans with total or permanent service related disabilities or their unmarried surviving spouse. Certification of the disability must be provided. There is no age or income limitation.

The program excludes up to the first $45,000 of the appraised value of the permanent residence. The program was recently changed to include all homes, not just those specially adapted to include items like a ramp. Those approved do not need to reapply unless their disability or benefit status changes.

Participants who also qualify for the Elderly or Disabled Exclusion cannot participate in both programs.

John Hagler said he purchased his Wake County home in 1964 for $15,000. Now it's valued at $386,000. Afraid he may lose his home, Hagler attended an information session on Tuesday at the Wake County Commons Building in Raleigh. Hagler said his pension and Social Security income put him over the limits to qualify for the programs.

Other sessions are planned for March 31 at the Eastern Regional Center, 1002 Dogwood Drive, Zebulon; April 8 at the Holly Springs Cultural Center, 300 W. Ballentine St., Holly Springs; and April 21 at the Northern Regional Center, 350 E. Holding Ave., Wake Forest.

13 Comments

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  • dogman1973 Mar 11, 2009

    Suggestion to the author of this article, please include: Veterans have to be 100% disabled to meet the requirements for this.
    Veteran's VA disability is calculated on a percentage basis ie 10%, 20%, 30%, etc.

  • Eduardo1 Mar 11, 2009

    wafmjf...I have to agree with you. Our gross SS is about 5K over the limit. Now just a few of our "unnessary expenses$500.per mo for BC/BS supplemental, 160 per mo for prescription supplemental, about $8,00 per year OTP for our prescriptions.. Of course we do not have to buy food, of course we do not have to pay property tax, of course we do not have to pay a mortgage, of course we do not have to pay do-pays to doctors..of course, of course, of course. WE SHOULD NOT HAVE TO PAY ANY PROPERTY TAX, we have been tax'd to death all of our lives and we will be taxed even when we die

  • PeaceOut2017 Mar 11, 2009

    How about a tax relief for everyone? Or the Obama way: tax releif for 95% of every propert owner

  • ThisIsMyName Mar 11, 2009

    Some relief is better than nothing, especially in this economy.

  • RonnieR Mar 11, 2009

    My gripe is the way the members of the GA talk about it. They always say those who EARN x amount of dollars or less a year will qualify. Well, actually, it is not only what you earn, for which most seniors would qualify, BUT UNEARNED INCOME AND TRANSFER PAYMENTS are counted, too. Therefore, to qualify,
    one must be too poor to own a house to begin with.

  • htomc42 Mar 11, 2009

    Since the housing bubble has burst, and so many mortgages are in trouble because they owe far more than the house is worth, then why aren't the tax values likewise being decreased?

    Could it be their insatiable greed for our money, regardless of the lives it destroys?

  • RideItOut Mar 11, 2009

    It goes to show we will never own anything as we have to pay "rent" to the gov for the rest of our lives. That's freedom and liberty for ya.

  • imtiredofit Mar 11, 2009

    The homeowners exemption is a joke, you have to make less than $25,000 per year to qualify and if you are married the number is still $25,000 for the both of you. Wake County must really believe that 2 can live as cheaply as 1 since they don't raise the income level if you are married. The homeowners exemption is a insult to the elderly.

  • birdlady Mar 11, 2009

    This is not enough for most low income seniors. Once a person is over 65 and has lived in their home over 15 years, their tax bill should be paid forever. The way our government treats seniors is a shame. My mom gets the elderly discount but her house is also on about 6 acres of land and she can get no discount for the land, the state wants to tax her an outrageous amount. She can’t afford to pay the taxes.

  • OSX Mar 11, 2009

    Doesn't sound like much relief to me. How much is the tax on a $380k house?

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