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Property tax relief for seniors expands

GRAND FORKS -- Seniors will have a bit more help this year with their property taxes thanks to an overhauled Homestead Tax Credit program.

The program helps seniors and the disabled get a reduced rate on property taxes based on income. The North Dakota Legislature increased funding for the program this year, doubling the budget to $20 million.

"It has long been a program that has helped ease the burden on seniors," state Tax Commissioner Cory Fong said. "With that additional $10 million, we are hoping to serve many more seniors and disabled people in North Dakota."

Grand Forks City Assessor John Herz said there could be upwards of 100 additional Homestead applicants this year because of the higher income and asset ceilings. He said there were close to 200 applicants in the city last year, and 61 additional homeowners have applied so far this year.

"We know we are going to have more, but we really don't have an expectation," he said. "We just want to make sure that people that have been close to qualifying in the past are aware of the changes."

Applicants for the credit will now have less stringent requirements to meet, Fong said.

Homeowners who have an annual income of $42,000 -- compared to just $26,000 before -- or less can qualify for at least a partial reduction in taxable value of their property. Those who earn $22,000 or less annually qualify for a 100 percent reduction, or up to $4,500.

Fong said all income, including Social Security, counts toward factoring an applicant's annual income.

Additionally, legislators raised the maximum amount of assets allowed from $75,000 to $500,000.

"Seventy-five-thousand dollars was just out of whack with current times," Fong said. "It was a real barrier for some people. There are a few small communities where you can find homes under $75,000, but you could have a really modest home in Bismarck and it could cost $150,000 or $200,000."

Do you qualify?

If you are homeowner age 65 or older, or permanently and totally disabled, you may qualify for North Dakota's Homestead Tax Credit program.

Those who have an annual income of $42,000 or less qualify for varying levels of credit:

$0 to $22,000: the taxable value of their home is reduced by

100 percent, up to $4,500.

$22,001 to $26,000: 80 percent, up to $3,600.

$26,001 to $30,000: 60 percent, up to $2,700.

$30,001 to $34,000: 40 percent, up to $1,800.

$34,001 to $38,000: 20 percent, up to $900.

$38,001 to $42,000: 10 percent, up to $450.

Income that must be included when calculating annual income includes salaries, pensions, unemployment benefits and Social Security benefits. Gifts, inheritances and life insurance proceeds do not need to be included.