Barkley explains changes to Homestead Exemption Act

Published 11:46 am Thursday, June 27, 2013

By Sharon B. Barkley, Revenue Commissioner of Marengo County

On May 21, Governor Robert Bentley signed into law the “2013 Homestead Exemption Act” which effectively repeals most of the “2012 Homestead Exemption Act,” and sets new qualifying guidelines for those taxpayers claiming ad valorem tax exemption based on 65 years of age, those being permanently and totally disabled regardless of age, orthose who are blind regardless of age.

The provisions of the 2013 Act apply to the tax year beginning Oct. 1, 2012, and taxpayers seeking the exemption have until July 31 of this year to claim the exemption by bringing the required documentation (proof of disability or proof of income) to the Revenue Commissioner’s Office.

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While most taxpayers provided proof of disability and federal income earnings as required to recertify their exempt status prior to Jan. 1, there are still some residents who now have until July 31 to prove their exemption and not lose their exempt status.

The Revenue Commissioner’s Office will assist anyone who seeks help in claiming the exemptions. Just remember the tax lien date is still Oct. 1, 2012, meaning the taxpayer must have met the qualifications for which they are claiming as of that date and after Aug. 1 there will be no exceptions for making a late claim.

The 2013 Act provides a total exemption from ad valorem taxes on the principal residence and 160 acres adjacent thereto of any resident of this state who is 65 years of age or older, provided the net annual taxable income for the person claiming the exemption and that of his or her spouse is $12,000 or less as verified by the latest United States income tax return or some other appropriate evidence, or who is permanently and totally disabled regardless of income or age.

The 2013 Act removed the income threshold from the exemption for the disabled so that now only those persons claiming the exemption based on being 65 years of age or older are required to meet the income limitation. Any taxpayer who lost the exemption due to the income threshold, who previously had total exemption granted based on the taxpayer’s permanent and total disability, will have the exemption reinstated without the necessity of additional documentation.

The 2013 Act also provides that those persons seeking exemption based on disability status who are not drawing a disability pension or annuity from the armed services, a private company or any governmental agency, may establish their disability status by providing proof of such permanent and total disability by submitting written affidavits by any two physicians licensed to practice in this state, provided that at least one of these physicians is actively providing treatment directly related to the permanent and total disability of the person seeking the exemption.

The requirement that at least one of the physicians be actively providing treatment applies to any person applying for the exemption for the first time after the passage of the 2013 Act. Any person who qualified to receive the exemption prior to the 2013 Act by submitting certification by two physicians will continue to receive the exemption based on the letters already provided and will not be required to resubmit any physicians’ letters.

In addition, the 2013 Act provides a penalty assessed to anyone who knowingly and willfully gives false information for the purpose of claiming a homestead exemption.

Those found in violation shall be ordered to pay twice the amount of any ad valorem tax which would have been due retroactive for a period of up to 10 years plus interest at the rate of 15 percent per annum from the date the tax would have been due.

As the tax year of 2013 moves toward the final assessments prior to tax notices and the collection process, I cannot stress enough the importance of being aware of the homestead exemptions available and making a claim for these exemptions prior to Aug. 1, 2013.