Dear Friends and Neighbors,
A USA Today study said property taxes are at the highest in consuming part of income since 1992. Nationally, it noted more taxes are paid toward property compared to income and sales tax combined.
How does Washington rate? A 2007 U.S. Census Bureau survey shows Washington ranks 11th out of 50 states in median property taxes paid on owner-occupied homes. Although it excludes other properties which frequently pay higher taxes, such as businesses, apartments and manufacturing plants, the report underscores the fact that Washington property owners pay a heavy tax burden.
If you are among those having property tax sticker shock, here are several options I hope you will investigate:
You may file an appeal with the county Board of Equalization if you disagree with the county assessor's assessed value of your property. The deadline for filing an appeal is July 1 of the assessment year or within 30 days of when the Change of Value notice was mailed by the assessor's office, whichever is later. (Certain counties extend the filing deadline, so check with the Board of Equalization.)
If your property is damaged or destroyed, you may qualify for a reduced assessed value for taxes payable in the following year.
Owners of agricultural, open space or timberland may qualify for a reduced assessed value under the current use/open space program.
If you improve your home, such as adding a new room, deck or patio, you may qualify for a three-year exemption on the value of the improvements. Normal maintenance does not qualify. Be sure to contact the assessor's office BEFORE you finish your project. Otherwise, you won't get the break.
Tax relief is also available for qualifying senior citizens and disabled persons and veterans with a 100 percent service-connected disability.
The Senior Citizens and Disabled Property Tax Exemption Program freezes the value of your residence, as of Jan. 1 of the initial year of application, and exempts all excess levies. It may also exempt a portion of regular levies, depending on your income level.
The Senior Citizen and Disabled Person Property Tax Deferral Program allows qualifying citizens to defer property taxes and special assessments up to 80 percent of the equity in their home. The state places a lien against the property equal to the amount of owed taxes plus 5 percent. Total taxes are collected when the property is sold or passed on.
The Legislature has also provided a property tax deferral program for homeowners with limited income and property tax assistance for widows or widowers of veterans. Call the Skagit County assessor at (360) 336-9370 to see if you qualify.
Many families are fighting to keep from being taxed out of their homes. That's why we need further property tax relief. Here are some ideas I am considering:
Increasing the income threshold to qualify for the senior citizen/disabled/veteran property tax exemption;
Limiting property value increases through value averaging (spreading increases over time); and
Lowering the burden of proof for challenging assessed values, giving citizens a better chance to reduce tax bills.
I invite your ideas for further relief and encourage you to take advantage of the programs that could reduce your high property tax bill. For more information about property tax relief and how your tax dollars are spent, visit my Web site at: houserepublicans.wa.gov/Kristiansen.
In your service,