August 1, 2006
PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTIONS FOR SENIORS IN OTHER STATES
By: Kevin E. McCarthy, Principal Analyst
You asked whether any states totally exempt seniors from property taxes.
We found no state that totally exempts seniors from local property taxes. Alabama exempts the principal residence and up to 165 acres of land owned by seniors age 65 and older with incomes up to $7,500 from county (but not local) property taxes. Ala. Code § 40-9-21. This session the Georgia legislature passed HB 848, which will eliminate, if passed at referendum this November, the state property tax for all residents 65 years of age and older for their primary residence and no more than ten acres of land around the residence. The state property tax rate is 0.25 mills. In contrast, the local property tax rate in most Connecticut municipalities is between 20 and 40 mills. Georgia also allows municipalities to abate property taxes for seniors, and one town (Woodstock) provides a 100% abatement, which has the same effect has a total exemption.
Several states exempt, or allow municipalities to exempt, seniors from paying specific types of property taxes. For example, Washington totally exempts seniors age 61 and older whose disposable household income (gross income less certain expenditures such Medicare insurance premiums) is below $35,000 from all excess or special levies. Excess or special levies are in addition to regular levies. They require voter approval and provide money for a specific purpose, such as school bonds and maintenance and operation levies.
Most states, like Connecticut, provide partial exemptions for seniors who meet income or other criteria. These exemptions take several forms, including homestead exemptions that exclude part of the value of a senior's home from the tax assessment, circuit breaker programs, tax rebates, and freezes on property tax rates or total taxes. Several states, including California, Colorado, Maryland, Minnesota, Oregon, and Washington have tax deferral programs, in which the tax (plus interest) is deferred until the property is sold or the owner dies.