How to Get Exemptions on Property Taxes or Defer Property Tax Payments

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Property taxes are on the rise, but there are ways for certain groups to cut their tax bills or for seniors to defer payment in an effort to keep them in their homes.

Last week, the same night that the Town Council approved the Property Tax rates for Fiscal 2017, which will be rising, they approved programs to match the state’s property tax exemptions and to allow seniors to defer part or all of their property tax bills.

Town Treasurer/Collector Joseph DiVito said he has heard from residents struggling to pay for the tax hikes.

“After meeting with several constituents, elders, who want to stay in their homes, one of their responses is that they are being taxed out of their homes,” DiVito said.

The Council voted to increase the maximum gross receipts residents are allowed to have and still qualify for the tax deferment program, from $40,000 to $57,000 for a single person over 65 years of age living in their own home. For those married filing jointly the maximum is $85,000 or the limit is $71,000 for head of household.  You must have owned and occupied the home for at least the previous 5 years.

The property tax deferment program works a bit like a reverse mortgage.

“They can postpose any amount unabated, and they have to qualify every year and they have to maintain ownership,” DiVito said.

The interest is 8 percent, but it is not compounding, DiVito said. Other exemptions can be taken off first, and the deferments can be as much as 50 percent of the home’s value.

“Upon the property’s transfer or the occupants demise the taxes are due immediately,” DiVito said.

This year, only four people used the tax deferment program, but DiVito expects more to apply this year.

There are other exemptions that people can receive that will cut their property tax bills. The Town Council voted last Tuesday to have 100 percent matches of what the state provides for these exemption.

DiVito and Town Assessor Francis Golden will be on hand at the Watertown Senior Center, 31 Marshall St., to explain the exemptions on Dec. 21, at 10 a.m. Refreshments will be provided, and pre-registration is requested. To reserve your spot call the Senior Center at 617-972-6490.

The exemptions include:

The surviving spouse or minor child, or elderly person exemption, which cuts $350 off the bill. To qualify, you must be the spouse or minor child of a spouse/parent who passed away, and who owns a the home they live in. Also, anyone over the age of 70 who has owned the property they are living in for at least the previous 5 years. There is no income requirement

Disabled veterans or their surviving spouses, recipients of the Purple Heart or their spouses and fathers and mothers of a serviceman or woman who lost their lives during military service can qualify for an exemption. If you qualify, you will receive at least $800, and as much as the entire bill, depending on the level of disability. Disabled veterans must qualify for at least 10 percent disability. There are no income requirements.

The blind can qualify for a $1,000 exemption. He or she must own and live in the home by July 1 of the tax year. To qualify, you must show a certificate of blindness from the Commission for the blind. There is not income requirement.

Those over 65 who have owned and occupied their home for at least five years, and lived in Massachusetts for 10 years or more, can qualify for the Elderly Exemption. Their “income” cannot exceed $20,000 if single, $30,000 if married, and their whole estate – including money in the bank, retirement funds, stocks, bonds and the value of their real estate – cannot exceed $40,000 if single or $55,000 if married.

Renters and homeowners over age 65 can qualify for the state’s Senior Circuit Breaker Credit. You can qualify for as much as $1,070 a year. Income requirements are total income must be $57,000 or less for a single person, $85,000 or less for those married filing jointly or $71,000 for head of household. Also, the assessed value of the property cannot exceed $693,000, according to the Mass Department of Revenue.

For more information about the tax deferment program or the tax exemptions, call the Assessor’s office at 617-972-6410.

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