PARKERSBURG - Seniors and the permanently disabled have until Nov. 30 to take advantage of the Homestead Exemption tax break.
The deadline to file a homestead exemption application is Dec. 1. Since that date falls on a Saturday this year, Wood County Assessor Rich Shaffer said applications need to be in his office by Nov. 30. If the application is mailed and postmarked Dec. 1 it can still be accepted. The exemption provides a discount on real estate taxes for those 65 or older and those who are totally and permanently disabled.
Applicants must be a Wood County resident and occupy their homes for more than six consecutive months each year. The tax break includes mobile or manufactured housing, as long as it's owned and occupied as the applicant's residence.
Shaffer said the exemption usually saves the property owner $225-$275 annually, depending on the location of the property. The filing period for the homestead opened July 1. The homestead exempts the first $20,000 of assessed value on the single-residence, owner-occupied property of the applicant.
"There are about 9,000 homesteads on file now. We receive about 650 new applications each year and about a similar number are removed due to individuals passing away," Shaffer said.
"We don't know, in the next few years, as more of the baby boomers turn 65 what impact that might have, we may see a real increase in the number of applications. If you are going to turn 65 before July 1, 2013, you can apply this year," Shaffer said.
Proof of disability is required if you are applying due to disability. Proof can be a physician's letter stating the applicant is permanently and totally disabled. Proof of age is required if you claiming the exemption due to age. A driver's license is acceptable for proof of age, Shaffer said.
"Once you are on homestead, unless you move, you remain on it. If you move, you need to reapply. We receive death notices from the county clerk. In the case of a couple who both qualify, we try to get both spouses to sign on when they apply. If we don't have both signatures, we mail the card to the surviving spouse, if they qualify, to sign up," the assessor said.
Shaffer noted there was a bill introduced in the last session of the Legislature that would have continued the exemption to the surviving spouse, but it didn't pass. A bill that proposed to raise the exemption also failed.
The homestead was first introduced in 1973 at $5,000. It was raised to $10,000 in 1980 and to $20,000 in 1982 and has not been increased since that time.
"There are usually a number of bills introduced in the Legislature each year to try and get the homestead exemption raised, but they get lost in committee or never make it through the legislative system. There are some counties that are concerned about the additional loss of revenue raising the exemption would cause. Some counties' tax base is low to begin with and they are very concerned about losing more revenue," Shaffer said.
"All the counties really have seen a stagnating tax base in the last couple of years due to the economy. We just have not had the new construction we used to have, right now may not be a good time to raise the exemption. If it were raised, most counties would probably have to raise their levy rate to compensate for the loss of the revenue," the assessor said.
Those wishing to apply for the exemption can do so in the assessor's offices in either the Wood County Courthouse, or the Judge Black Courthouse annex, office hours in both are 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. Monday through Friday. For more information or to check the status of a homestead call the office at 304-424-1875.