Information for Seniors
What is the Senior Property Tax Exemption?
The Senior Property Tax Exemption is for qualifying seniors and surviving spouses of seniors who previously qualified for the exemption. The exemption provides seniors with a reduction in the amount they pay in taxes on their primary residence which they have occupied for at least 10 consecutive years. If you qualify for the exemption, it does not reduce your tax rate, but instead reduces the taxable value of your property. In other words, it reduces the amount that you pay taxes on, not the percentage that you pay in taxes.
The state reimburses the county treasurer for the exempted property tax. The amount subject to exemption may be revised upward or downward by the state legislature. The legislature also has the ability to end the program at any time. The program is governed and funded by the legislature. Assessors’ Offices only administer the program.
In general, the exemption automatically carries over from year to year, so most people will only have to apply once; however, if the original applicant dies, his or her spouse must re-apply to keep the exemption. In addition, if there is a change in ownership, for example if the property was transferred to a trust or other legal entity, the applicant must reapply.
How is the Senior Property Tax Exemption calculated?
As of 2020, the taxable value of the property is reduced by 50 percent of the first $200,000 of value. For example:
- If the assessor’s taxable value of your home is $150,000, the full value is within the first $200,000, so the taxable value of the property will be reduced by 50 percent of $150,000, or $75,000. After the reduction, the taxable value of the property will be $75,000.
- In the example above, your total savings would be 50 percent for the year - an exemption credit of $536.25 ($1072.50 in taxes without the exemption and $536.25 with the exemption credit), based on a mill levy of 100.000.
- If the assessor’s taxable value of your home is $400,000, the taxable value will be reduced by 50 percent of the first $200,000, or $100,000. After the reduction, the taxable value of the property will be $300,000.
- In the example above, you would be receiving the maximum exemption credit possible for the year - an exemption credit of $715.00 ($2,145.00 in taxes with the exemption compared to $2,860.00 without the exemption), based on a mill levy of 100.000.
To calculate the amount of the reduction for your property:
- Multiply the amount of the appraised value subject to exemption as established by the legislature by .50 (50%). As of 2020, the amount subject to exemption will be either $200,000 or the total appraised value of your home, whichever amount is lower.
- Multiply the result by .0715 (7.15%) (this is the estimated assessment rate, again, this is set by the State Legislature annually).
- Multiply this result by .095 (95 mills which is a typical levy in Jefferson County, these levies are set annually by the taxing authorities involved, i.e. the school district, fire district, etc.)
- The result will be your tax savings from the exemption.
To be eligible for the exemption, you must either be a qualifying senior or the surviving spouse of a senior who previously qualified.
- You must be at least 65 years old on January 1 of the year in which you want to qualify. This means that most people will apply the year after they turn 65, since they must already be 65 on January 1 of that year.
- You must be the owner of record.
- Owner of record means an individual whose name appears on a valid recorded deed to residential real property as an owner of the property.
- The title can be held individually, as joint tenants, or as tenants in common. You can also qualify if you hold a life estate in the property.
- You must have been the owner of record for at least 10 consecutive years prior to January 1.
- You must occupy the property as your primary residence.
- You must have occupied the property as your primary residence for at least 10 consecutive years prior to January 1.
Exceptions to Occupancy and Ownership Requirements
If you meet most of the requirements in the “Qualifying Seniors” section above, but do not match an occupancy or ownership requirement, you may still qualify for the exemption if you are in one of the following situations:
- The ownership is in the spouse’s name, and that person also occupies the property;
- The ownership has been transferred to or purchased by a trust, corporate partnership or other legal entity solely for estate planning purposes;
- The qualifying senior, or his or her spouse, is or was confined to a health-care facility, and the property is or was unoccupied or only occupied by the senior’s spouse and/or dependent(s);
- The prior residence was condemned in an eminent domain proceeding or otherwise rendered uninhabitable due to natural disaster.
Surviving Spouse of a Senior Who Previously Qualified
- The surviving spouse must have been legally married to a senior who applied for and received the exemption, or who met the age, occupancy, and ownership requirements on January 1 of the year of death.
- The surviving spouse cannot have remarried.
- The surviving spouse must have occupied the property with the qualifying senior as his or her primary residence and must still occupy the same property.
- The surviving spouse must reapply for the exemption in order for the exemption to continue.
You must apply by July 15 of a year in which you are at least 65 years old and meet the ownership and occupancy requirements as of January 1. To apply, follow the steps below.
- Determine whether or not you think you qualify using the requirements listed above.
- If you think you qualify, fill out either the short form or the long form. Determine which form you should use by reading the short summaries below.
- Short Form: If you are applying for yourself (not your spouse) and you meet all of the requirements in the “Qualifying Seniors” section above, you should use the short form.
- Long Form: If you are applying as the surviving spouse of a senior who previously qualified, ownership is held by a trust or legal entity, or if you believe that you qualify for an exception listed in the “Exceptions to Occupancy and Ownership Requirements” section above, you should use the long form.
- Submit your completed form to the Assessor’s Office by July 15 of the first year for which you are seeking the exemption. (The exemption will apply to the following year’s tax statement. For example, in June 2020, you could apply for the exemption on your 2020 taxes which are payable in 2021.)
- To avoid any penalties, do not provide any false information on your application, do not file more than one exemption application in any property tax year, and notify the Assessor’s Office within 60 days of any change in the property’s ownership or occupancy.
If you apply and are denied, the Assessor’s Office will mail a letter no later than August 1 explaining the reason for the denial. If you are unsatisfied, you may appeal the denial by submitting the form located on the back of the letter by August 15. A hearing will then be scheduled with the Board of Equalization between August 1 and September 1.
Important Requirements to Gain or Keep Senior Exemption
In order to ensure that you are able to gain or keep the senior exemption and that you do not face any penalties, you must adhere to the following requirements:
- Do not provide any false information on your application.
- Do not file more than one exemption application in any property tax year.
- You must notify the Assessor’s Office within 60 days of any change in the property’s ownership or occupancy. Depending on the change, you may need to reapply to keep the exemption.
- County assessors and treasurers, the property tax administrator, the state treasurer and the state auditor may release statistical compilations or informational summaries of any information contained in exemption applications, except social security numbers, which cannot be divulged.
- Copies of exemption applications may be used as evidence in any administrative hearing or legal proceeding in which the accuracy or veracity of the application is an issue so long as the applicants’ social security numbers are not divulged.
- None of the above parties may provide any other person with a listing of individuals who have applied for an exemption or provide any other information that would enable someone to easily assemble a mailing list of individuals who have applied for the exemption.
For any questions, please check our FAQ page or contact the Senior Property Tax Exemption Department at 303-271-8629.