Reworked exemption draws taxpayer ire

Sharon Barkley and other revenue commissioners around the state have taken heat in the wake of the passage of Act 2012-313, which was signed into law May 10.

The act reworked a property tax exemption that had previously been made available only to disable homeowners and those aged 65 and older.

Portions of the law regarding eligibility for the exemption were changed during the 2012 legislative session, resulting in an increased income threshold on homestead exemptions from $7,500 per year to $12,000 per year for those aged 65 and older.

In contrast to the old law, the new wording also includes the income of property owners’ spouses in the household’s annual total.

“Bo McAlpine, Marengo County Revenue Commissioner at the time, and all of us who worked for the Marengo County Commission had no input as to this law, and none of us were consulted,” Barkley stated in a letter sent out to property owners earlier this month. “All persons are required under the law to reapply in person to maintain your tax exemption. It would appear that the intent of the law was to, perhaps, increase revenues if taxpayers failed to reapply in person.”

While raising the income threshold helps many state residents, language in the bill has also bred confusion among many regarding who is eligible for the exemption.

The bill, which will affect approximately 2,500 Marengo County residents, stats that residents must be retired to be eligible for the exemption, which could theoretically leave out some with disabilities who have never worked. Barkley and revenue commissioners statewide remain unclear as to how the law should be interpreted. Regardless of how the law is applied, all those previously eligible for the exemption must reapply in person in order to be considered for the tax break.

“As your Revenue Commissioner, it is my goal to notify and make every eligible taxpayer aware that they are now required to reapply in person,” Barkley wrote in the letter. “Everyone in our office is going to work hard to notify our taxpayers of this new law, so that none of you lose the tax exemption that you rightfully deserve. The recertification form can be picked up at the Office of the Revenue Commissioner at any time and we will gladly assist you or your representative in getting you recertified and keeping you eligible.”

The process of reapplying for the exemption will continue through Dec. 31.  Those with questions regarding the exemption are encouraged to contact Barkley or her staff at 334-295-2214.