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The Time is Now for Property Tax Relief

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Politicians in both Montana and Idaho are reaching out to the area's elderly to remind them that the deadline is fast approaching for applying for property tax exemptions and reductions.


Politicians are reaching out to remind homeowners in both Idaho and Montana that the time is now to apply for various measures allowing for relief from property taxes.

In Montana, Senator Jim Elliott writes, "Folks over 62 are eligible to apply for a property tax rebate of up to $1,000 through the Elderly Homeowner-Renter Program (Montana Department of Revenue Form 2EC). You are eligible if you own your home, and you are eligible if you rent your home. You are eligible if any member of your household is 62 or older. The program is available to people with gross incomes as high as $45,000, but those with incomes under $25,000 should definitely consider applying because the odds are good that you will qualify for a rebate.

Not that it’s especially easy. Elliott goes on to warn, "Unfortunately, the Form 2EC is not only confusing; it’s got small print, too. I did some basic calculations to illustrate what to expect at different income levels so you can see if it’s worth your while to fill it out. The income standard used is gross income; that is, income from Social Security, wages, pensions, capital gains, alimony, interest, dividends, and every other source you can think of that might qualify as income; and probably some sources you can’t think of, but don’t worry, there’s a list of income sources on the form.

"Here’s what you might expect at different income levels: a household with the following income/property tax levels should get a rebate: $10,000 income and $62 or more property tax; $12,000 income and $160 or more property tax; $15,000 income and $340 or more property tax; $18,000 income and $562 or more property tax; and $21,000 income with $735 or more in property tax."

For those over age 62 in Montana who don’t file income tax, Elliott says, "You are eligible whether or not you file income tax. If you do file income tax the Form 2EC should be filed at the same time. If you qualify, and this is the first time you have taken advantage of the program, you should know that you can file for a rebate for the previous five years; 2002 through 2006. You will need to get forms for each year."

In Montana, a visit to the Senior Citizen Ombudsman, the library or a local tax preparer can net you the necessary forms. Or you can go online to the Montana Dept. of Revenue website and download the forms."

Elliott takes it a step further, as well. "You can call or write me and I will see that you get (the form you need). If you need help filling it out, I’ll be happy to do that, too." You can reach the Senator by phone at 406-827-3671 or write him at 100 Trout Creek Rd., Trout Creek, MT 59874."

In Idaho:

Steve Elgar, former (and possibly future) candidate for state legislature, has urged wide dissemination of information providing property tax relief to Idaho residents. He states, "The Idaho Tax Commission staff estimates that half the qualified Idaho homeowners do not receive circuit breaker property tax relief, because they don’t know about it or don’t have enough information." He then goes on to provide the following information.

"Thousands of Idaho homeowners are failing to take advantage of a property tax law that can save them hundreds of dollars. This is the circuit breaker law for people over age 65 and those under 65 who are disabled, blind, widows or widowers, former prisoners of war or hostages, or motherless or fatherless children under 18.

"Savings range from $150 at the highest qualifying income level to $1,320 with income under $11,270.

"Claire Cunningham of the State Tax Commission staff estimates that 50 per cent of qualified homeowners don’t receive the credit.

"The household income limit is $28,000, but people can qualify with more income. All out-of-pocket medical expenses including insurance premiums, doctor, nursing, therapy, and transportation costs can be deducted from income to reach the limit.

"For example, a couple with $3,000 in out-of-pocket medical costs in 2007 would qualify with household income up to $31,000. Funeral costs or prepaid funeral premiums can be deducted.

"Household income is the "adjusted gross income" on the income tax return plus Social Security, pension, interest, and capital gains. Application forms should be accompanied by a copy of the 2007 income tax form. Those whose income doesn’t require them to file a tax return can qualify for the circuit breaker by documenting their income.

"People who haven’t yet filed a tax return can apply for the circuit breaker by April 15 and provide the income information later. Homeowners residing in a shelter home or nursing home also may be eligible.

"A form is provided for out-of-pocket medical expenses. Documentation is requested, but not required. Computer printouts from the provider are preferred and cancelled checks or bank statements are accepted for insurance payments.

"Assessor’s offices can answer questions and help with the forms. People confined to their home or a nursing home can ask the assessor to send someone to help them. It is better to make those requests well before the deadline.

"Unlike the homeowner exemption, which requires homeowners to apply only once, the circuit breaker requires an application every year. Homeowners who purchased their home in the past year and have not yet applied need to apply before April 15 to receive the exemption for 2008.

"The state reimburses counties, schools, and other local government for circuit breaker tax relief, and in 2007 paid $15.3 million for 28,202 qualifying households. The number qualifying increased by 1,700 in the last three years.

"Call your county assessor for information and questions. You can get forms and instructions at assessors offices or at the web site of the State Tax Commission. Click on property tax and then property tax relief. Or call 800 334-7756.

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Landon Otis

Tagged as:

Politics, property tax, Senator Jim Elliott, Steve Elgar

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