Sign up now for tax relief programs
By Steve Herring
Published in News on January 2, 2014 1:46 PM
Wayne County tax officials say that despite their best efforts some people still fail to get the message about deadlines for several tax relief programs.
Two programs, the Senior Citizen/Disability Homestead Exclusion and the Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exclusion, provide actual tax exemptions on property.
Two others, the Homestead Circuit Breaker Tax Deferment program and the Present Use Value Assessment for Agricultural, Horticultural and Forestlands program, defer taxes.
Filing began Wednesday and continues through June 1 for all of the programs with the exception of Present Use Value. The filing period for that program is through January only.
Late applications for any of the programs have to go before the Wayne County commissioners for approval.
"We have had quite a few (late applications) because some folks just don't get the message," Wayne County Tax Administrator David Ward said. "We advertise it. We have it on our website. Information is out there. We do all we can think of to notify them because there is no way to know that someone owns property if they are 65 or older.
"We don't know your income. In other words, you have got to apply and give us the information so that we can see if you qualify."
Assistant Tax Director Alan Lumpkin noted that people have five months to make application for most of the programs.
The only exception is the present use (farmland) exception, Ward said.
"One reason you are seeing more (commissioners' action on late applications) now is there was a statutory change several years ago," Lumpkin said. "It basically said that if they file timely, we can approve or disapprove it in our (tax) office.
"If it is beyond the actual time period allowed, it has to go to commissioners. If they come in late, we can't do anything with it. It has to go to them. Then the way it (law) says 'upon a showing of good cause,' they (commissioners) can approve it."
No one has yet to provide a definition of "good cause," Ward said.
There are no age or income restrictions for the Disabled Veteran Property Tax Exclusion program. A one-time application is required.
If a person qualifies, a flat $45,000 is deducted from the value of the home, with the person paying tax on the difference of the balance. The house must be the person's permanent residence that they own and occupy.
To apply, the person must be a North Carolina resident and an honorably discharged, disabled veteran, who, as of Jan. 1, has a total and permanent service-connected disability or who receives benefits for specially adapted housing under a certain federal code.
Also eligible are the unmarried surviving spouses of honorably discharged disabled veterans.
The Senior Citizen/Disability Homestead Exclusion program is open to North Carolina residents age 65 or older, or who are totally and permanently disabled, and who own and occupy their own home.
Also, all the money an applicant receives during the year must total $28,100 or less including all money received such as Social Security, VA benefits and interest income.
For married applicants residing with their spouse, the income of both must be included, even if only one owns the property.
If approved, the owner receives a minimum tax break of $25,000 or half the value of the home, whichever is more.
People who own property that is being farmed or that is under a forestry management program may apply for the present use program.
If approved, the property is taxed at what is called present use value, which is a lower taxing schedule than the market value schedule used by the county.
The tax difference between the market and present use values is a deferred tax and is in effect a lien on the property.
The taxes remains deferred until the use of the property is changed or a portion or all of the property is deeded to someone else -- even if that someone is a relative.
If that happens, the prior three years of deferred taxes preceding the current tax year become due and payable, as does the current year's taxes. The new property owner must reapply and be approved for the program in order for the taxes to remain deferred.
A person must be a North Carolina resident, 65 years of age, or totally and permanently disabled to qualify for the Homestead Circuit Breaker Tax Deferment Program.
They must have owned and occupied the home as their permanent legal residence for five years.
Their income cannot exceed 150 percent of the income eligibility limit for the Elderly/Disabled Exclusion.
If the income is $28,100 or less, taxes are limited to 4 percent of their income. If their income is greater than $28,100, but not more than $42,150, taxes are limited to 5 percent of their income.
Calculated taxes that exceed the 4 percent or 5 percent limits are deferred taxes and are a lien on the property.
Also, interest accrues on deferred taxes as if they had been payable on the original due dates.
Payment of the deferred taxes can be triggered by the death of the owner unless ownership passes to a co-owner or spouse; transfer of the property unless the title passes to a co-owner, or to a spouse as a result of a divorce proceeding; or the owner ceases to use the property as a permanent residence.
If payment is triggered, the last three years of deferred taxes preceding the current tax year become due and payable.
The only exception is when the owner dies in which the deferred taxes become delinquent on the first day of the ninth month following the date of the owner's death.
Annual applications are required to verify annual income. The tax collector notifies each owner by Sept. 1 of each year of the accumulated sum of deferred taxes and interest.
Application forms for these programs and more information are available by calling the Wayne County Tax Department at 919-731-1461 or by downloading the forms from the county website, www.waynegov.com.