Southampton Town Board Considers Increased Income Eligibility For Senior Citizen Tax Exemptions

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Proposed changes to senior citizen income eligibility for property tax exemptions.

More eligible low-income senior citizens would be able to apply for property tax exemptions in Southampton Town if a measure sponsored by Councilman Tommy John Schiavoni becomes law.

Next Tuesday, January 11, the Town Board will host a public hearing on increasing the eligible income levels that allow seniors to knock a percentage off their assessment and lower their property taxes.

The maximum income for a 50 percent reduction in the assessed value used to calculate property taxes is currently $27,000. Should proposed legislation pass, the cap would increase by $2,000 to $29,000.

From there, a “sliding scale” would be used to determine what percentage of the assessed value would be exempted. An annual income of $30,000 to $31,000 would equate to the exemption of 40 percent of the assessed value, for example. At the most, a senior can make $37,500 to qualify for a 5 percent exemption. In the case of the homeowner being married, a couple’s combined income can’t exceed the threshold.

State legislation paved the way for the local measure, according to Schiavoni, who said he didn’t think the income levels had changed since 2009. “This is something that’s long overdue,” he asserted. “And we are certainly happy to be providing this exemption for our seniors.”

The state’s website, tax.ny.gov/pit/property/exemption/seniorexempt.htm, offers guidelines and details for applying for the exemption.

A resident must own the home for 12 consecutive months before filing for the exemption. Manufactured homes on leased land can qualify for the senior citizen exemption, according to the state website. “If a home is located in a manufactured home park, you are entitled to a reduction in rent for the amount of the taxes paid,” it states.

In the case of the homeowner being married, that couple’s combined income can’t exceed the cap. The two incomes are added together unless one spouse is absent from the residence due to a legal separation or abandonment. The income of a non-resident former spouse, who retains an ownership interest after the divorce, is not included. Proceeds from reverse mortgages are not considered income for the exemption.

In the case of more than one owner of a property, each owner must be over 65, unless one of two owners is a spouse or sibling of the age-eligible owner. The property must be used for residential purposes.

A similar law specific to New York City was signed at the same time as the state legislation raising the income levels. In the city, however, the incomes can be significantly higher and seniors may still be eligible for the reduction. The income threshold for receiving a 50 percent reduction in assessed valuation is $50,000. It tops out at $58,399.

State Assemblyman Fred W. Thiele Jr. pointed out that New York City’s budget is funded by income tax, not property tax. And looking at the whole picture, he pointed out that the rest of the state gets better School Tax Relief (STAR) benefits than the city. Overall, he asserted, “We do better on property tax relief than NYC.”

To the town’s measure, he said, “I commend Southampton Town for raising the income eligibility for the senior exemption to the maximum permitted by state law. This will allow every eligible senior to get the tax relief to which they are entitled. Further, it is time for the state law to be updated to increase income eligibility to a much higher level. I am committed to pursuing such legislation this year.”

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