Homestead exemptions reduce property tax bills

CAMERON— Homeowners can reduce their property tax bills in 2013 by taking advantage of homestead exemptions offered by counties, cities, school districts, and other local taxing units. To apply for an exemption on your residence, contact the Milam Appraisal District.

A homestead is generally the house and land used as the owner’s principal residence on Jan. 1 of the tax year. Homestead exemptions reduce the appraised value of your home and thus lower your property taxes.

The Appraisal District mailed a “Notice to Reapply for Homestead/ Over-65” to property owners with a tax freeze ceiling years of 2007, 2002, 1997, 1992 and 1987.

“The need exists to confirm that the homestead/over 65 exemptions are still valid,” Chief Appraiser Patricia Moraw said. Failure to re-qualify for the exemption will result in the removal of the exemption and the freeze.

Available homestead exemptions include:

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

• County taxes: If a county collects a special tax for farm-to-market roads or flood control, a homeowner may receive a $3,000 homestead exemption for this tax.

• Age and disability exemptions: 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 65 or older and/or disabled. Older or disabled homeowners do not need to own their homes on Jan. 1 to qualify for these 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 property 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 service-connected disability.

• 100-percent Residence Homestead Exemption for Disabled Veterans: A disabled veteran who receives from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs (1) l00 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.

Surviving spouses are also eligible upon the veteran’s death with certain restrictions. The Residence Homestead application must be filed if the exemption is claimed.

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.

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. The mailing address on the license and vehicle registration form must have the same location address of the property for which the residential homestead exemption is being applied. 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.

If the applicant is temporarily absent from his/her homestead, the Chief Appraiser requires documentation of residence in a care facility or reason for absence and the estimated date of return to his/her home. Any person signing the application other than the applicant should attach documentation of power of attorney, guardianship, or statement of relationship and responsibility to the applicant.

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 tax 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.

Applicants that are denied a homestead and/or over sixty-five exemption will be notified by certified mail and will have the right to appeal the denial within the specified time frame.

Property owners are urged to read all correspondence from the Appraisal District.

“Most items the Appraisal District mails are time sensitive with deadlines set by the Property Tax Code,” Moraw said. The Appraisal District attempts to keep the public informed and often does multiple mail outs as well as display ads and news releases.

“Property owners are responsible for certain functions—the Appraisal District will assist them in any manner allowed by the Property Tax Code,” Moraw said.

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

For further details on homestead exemptions that can lower your property taxes, contact the Milam Appraisal District, P. O. Box 769, 120 N. Houston Avenue, Cameron, TX 76520; (254)697-6638 or (800)772- 4457. Or contact the Comptroller’s Property Tax Assistance Division at 800-252-9121, and press “2” to access the menu and then press “1” to contact the Information Services Team or visit the Comptroller’s website at proptax.

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