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Tax Breaks for Seniors and Property Owners with Disabilities

SeattleMapleleaf

For seniors and persons with disabilities struggling to stay in their homes, real help to pay property taxes is available.

As I traveled around King County this past year, I discovered that too many people don’t know about these programs. A fellow I met in Seattle’s Columbia City is a case in point.

He’d paid off his mortgage many years ago. But the taxes on his home had gotten to a point where he was thinking of selling and finding a place where his taxes would be much lower. His fixed income could not keep up with expenses, including escalating property taxes. Moreover, finding a new, decent place he could afford in this pricey real estate market seemed unlikely.

I suggested he check out the Property Tax Exemption and Tax Deferral programs for Senior Citizens and Disabled Persons. These are great programs for people who qualify. They are intended to help people stay in their homes.

I’ll briefly summarize these programs. But for all the details, go online at www.dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/prop tax/seniorexempt.pdf.

The first thing to know is these programs help people on low incomes:

  • For an exemption, annual household income not to exceed $40,000, or
  • For a deferral, annual household income not to exceed $45,000.

The Senior Exemption program provides property tax reductions at three different levels, depending on total income. For the greatest benefit, if your household income is below $30,000, you can receive an exemption for regular levies on 60 percent of your home’s value.

It is important to note that applicants for property tax exemptions will need to be at least 61 years of age, and provide documentation for proof of income, ownership and occupation of residence. Applications for tax exemptions will be for relief in the year following that in which the application is filed. Property tax exemptions must be renewed by application every four years.

People qualifying for property tax exemptions are not required to repay the exempted taxes (unless, of course, it turns out the exemptions prove to be fraudulent, in which case repayment and penalties may apply).

Anyone with questions about the exemption or deferral programs may call our staff at 206-296-3920.

The property tax deferral program for senior citizens and disabled persons does not waive taxes. Rather, the taxes are paid by the state, a lien is then placed on the qualified property and all deferred taxes are repaid with interest when the property is sold or passed on.

Applicants for property tax deferrals must have an annual household income no more than $45,000 and, generally, be at least 60 years of age or unable to work due to disability. Details for the property tax deferral program can be reviewed at http://dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/prop_tax/seniordefs.pdf.

This summary provides only an overview of the property tax exemption and deferral programs. If you know of someone who may benefit from and possibly qualify for either one, I urge you to encourage them to check out these programs. We in the assessor’s office are here to help.

I am particularly concerned that not enough people in King County know about these programs, or that perhaps they are cautious about applying for their benefits. We are a county of more than two million people. Yet only 16,041 people participate in either the exemption or deferral programs.

Help me make sure all who may qualify for an exemption or deferral know about and consider applying.


john-wilsonContributor John Wilson is King County Assessor. He took office January 1, 2016. For more information from the Office of the King County Assessor, visit www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor.aspx and www.kingcounty.gov/depts/assessor/TaxpayerAssistance/TaxRelief.aspx.

Photo credit: (top) “Seattle Mapleleaf Neigh Mar06_02-01” by Steve Johnson, accessed 3/24/16 via Creative Commons at www.flickr.com/photos/steffer/112946957.

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