Do senior citizens have to pay property taxes on their home?

November 2, 2011 19:23 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed: 

I was told that if you are a senior citizen you no longer have to pay property taxes on your house.  Is this true?

Consumer Ed says:

There are several homestead exemptions offered by the State of Georgia that apply specifically to senior citizens:

  • Individuals 65 years or older may claim an exemption from all state ad valorem taxes on their primary, legal residence and up to 10 acres of land surrounding the residence. Note: This does not apply to or affect county, municipal or school district taxes.
  • Individuals 65 years or older may claim a $4,000 exemption from all state and county ad valorem taxes if the income of that person and his/her spouse did not exceed $10,000 in the previous year (excluding income from retirement sources, pensions and disability income up to the maximum allowable amount under the Social Security Act, which was $55,742 in 2011).
  • Individuals 62 years or older may claim an additional exemption  for educational purposes if the income of that person and his/her spouse does not exceed $10,000 in the previous year (excluding income from retirement sources, pensions and disability income up to the maximum allowable amount under the Social Security Act).

Homestead exemptions are not automatic. The homeowner must apply for the exemption with the tax commissioner's office, or in some counties, the tax assessor's office. 
 
Some county and municipal governments provide additional senior citizen homestead exemptions. To learn if you qualify, contact your local tax assessor's office.

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Refund Anticipation Loans

January 28, 2011 19:41 by Consumer Ed

Dear Consumer Ed:

I’ve seen ads for Refund Anticipation Loans from some of the tax preparers.  Is this really a better, faster way to get my tax refund?

Consumer Ed says:

A Refund Anticipation Loan is a short-term loan in the amount of your expected tax refund, less interest and fees that you must pay the lender or tax preparer.  The advantage is that you can get your money in as little as 24 hours.  There is a downside though, and it’s pretty steep.  First, these loans come with fees and high interest rates. For example, studies by the National Consumer Law Center and Consumer Federation of America show that during 2008, American taxpayers paid approximately $806 million in fees charged in connection with these loans. Another downside is that if your tax refund is less than the anticipated amount, you are still responsible for the full amount of the loan.

A smarter alternative is to e-file your taxes and request the refund via direct deposit. This allows you to get your refund deposited directly to your bank account in about 8 to 10 days.  If your adjusted gross income is $58,000 or less, you can e-file your federal taxes for free. For more information, go to www.irs.gov.

The Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Program (VITA) offers free tax help to people with low to moderate incomes (generally, $49,000 and below) who cannot prepare their own tax returns. VITA sites are generally located at community and neighborhood centers, libraries, schools, shopping malls, and other convenient locations. Most locations also offer free electronic filing. To locate the nearest VITA site, call 1-800-906-9887.

The Tax Counseling for the Elderly (TCE) Program provides free tax help to people aged 60 and older.  Trained volunteers from non-profit organizations provide free tax counseling and basic income tax return preparation for senior citizens.  AARP offers the Tax-Aide counseling program at more than 7,000 sites nationwide during the filing season.  For more information on TCE, call 1-800-829-1040.  To locate the nearest AARP Tax-Aide site, call 1-888-227-7669 or visit AARP's website at www.aarp.org.

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