To lower property tax, file homestead exemption forms

Homeowners can reduce their property tax bills in 2012 by taking advantage of homestead exemptions offered by counties, cities, school districts, and other local taxing units, according to Chief Appraiser Pat Moraw.

To apply for an exemption on your residence, contact the Milam County Appraisal District.

She listed available homestead exemptions as follows:

• School taxes: All homeowners may receive a $15,000 homestead exemption for school taxes on principal residence.

• Individuals 65 or older or disabled may qualify for a $10,000 homestead exemption for school taxes, in addition to the $15,000 exemption available to all homeowners’ principal residence.

Also, any taxing unit may offer a local optional exemption of at least $3,000 for taxpayers are 65 or older and/or disabled.

Older or disabled homeowners do not need to own their homes on Ja n. 1 to qualif y for t hese special homestead exemptions.

• Taxing units may offer a local option exemption based on a percentage of a home’s appraised value. Any taxing unit can exempt up to 20 percent of the value of each qualified homestead. No matter what percentage of value the taxing unit adopts, the dollar value of the exemption must be at least $5,000.

• Partial disabled veteran exemptions. The law provides partial exemptions for any proper ty owned by veterans who are disabled, spouses and survivors of deceased disabled veterans and spouses and survivors of military personnel who dies on active duty. The amount of exemption is determined according to the percentage of ser vice - connected disabilit y.

• 100% Residence Homestead Exemption for Disabled Veterans.

A disabled veteran who receives from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (1) 100 percent disability compensation due to service connected disability; and (2) a rating of 100 percent disabled or of individual unemployability is entitled to an exemption from taxation of the total appraised value of the veteran’s residence homestead.

Beginning this year, this benefit has been extended to the surviving spouse upon the veteran’s death with certain restrictions. Recently passed legislation now requires homeowners to provide proof of residency for a new property tax exemption beginning Sept. 1, 2011. This new requirement does not apply to homeowners who already have homestead exemptions.

Homeowners may also qualify for a limit on taxes. A tax freeze, or ceiling, for school taxes is a benefit for homeowners when they turn 65 or become disabled.

The elderly or disabled homeowner’s school property taxes cannot increase above the amount of tax paid on that home in the first year the homeowner receives the 65 and older homestead exemption, unless the homeowner improves or adds to the house or makes an improvement because of a disaster.

In addition to the school ta x freeze, Milam County and Cameron City also offer a tax freeze for the elderly or disabled homeowners. A taxing unit’s governing body may vote to grant the freeze, or the citizens of a taxing unit may petition for an election on granting the freeze.

A person applying for a residential homestead exemption is required to include a copy of the applicant’s driver’s license and a vehicle registration receipt. If no vehicle, an affidavit that the applicant does not own a vehicle accompanied by a DPS identification card and a current copy of a utility bill of the residence subject of the homestead is required.

The Chief Appraiser is prohibited from granting the exemption unless the address of the property matches the address on the driver’s license and registration receipt or utility bill.

Moraw said the Appraisal District is a free - standing governmental office. Milam County Commissioners’ Court has no jurisdiction or responsibility over its functions.

For details on homestead exemptions contact the Milam County Appraisal District, P. O. Box 769, 120 N. Houston Avenue, Cameron, TX 76520.

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