Reworked tax exemption to affect 2,500 in Marengo County

More than 2,500 Marengo County residents will have to reapply this year for a property tax exemption previously made available to disabled homeowners and homeowners aged 65 and older.

Portions of the law regarding eligibility for the exemptions were changed during the 2012 legislative session under HB120, a bill that was sponsored by Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills).

HB120 increased the 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 their household’s annual total. The reworking of the exemption also means the new $12,000 income threshold now applies to everyone over age 65, including those who are permanently disabled.

Marengo County Revenue Commissioner Sharon Barkley said that anyone affected by the change will receive a letter from the revenue commission office explaining the recertification process.

While raising the income threshold will help many Alabama residents, language in the bill has created confusion over who is eligible for the exemption.

The bill says residents must be retired, which could leave out some with disabilities if they have never worked.

Revenue commissioners statewide are unclear as to how the law should be interpreted. However, Barkly indicated that residents with total disability should be eligible for the exemption.

As it is currently written, revenue commissioners are free to interpret the law as they see fit.

The process of reapplying for the exemption will continue through Dec. 31 and must be done in person. If someone is physically incapable of making to the revenue commissioner’s office, they must designate a person to deliver the proper documentation.

While it remains to be seen how beneficial this law will be to Alabama residents, one thing that is almost assured is that courthouses across the state will see larger crowds due to the passage of the law.

Barkley said Marengo County citizens are encouraged to reapply as soon as possible to help alleviate those crowds.