Ah, property taxes a significant cost of living in New Jersey. Property taxes, an ever increasing expense that plagues homeowners, can be especially burdensome for retirees and senior citizens, often on a limited, “fixed income.” Even as mortgage payments drop off, the cost of living in your home prevails in the form of increasing property tax. In New Jersey and other states that impose high property taxes, retirees often decide to leave their home states in search of some tax relief. However, there is an alternative for New Jersey residents who qualify for the “Senior Freeze” program.
How It Works:
New Jersey’s Property Tax Reimbursement program, otherwise known as “Senior Freeze”, allows individuals age 65 and older to freeze their property taxes at their current level, provided certain requirements are met. This initial qualification and approval sets the level of property taxes for future years. In subsequent years, after qualifying seniors pay the full property tax bill that is due, they can submit a reimbursement form to the State requesting a reimbursement for the difference between the property tax paid and your property tax bill at the time of the freeze. For retirees living on a fixed income, it is important to correctly budget for the larger payments and then receive the repayment at a later date.
To be eligible for the Senior Freeze program, you must meet the following requirements from the base year through the year for which you are applying:
- You (or your spouse) are age 65 or older, or receiving Federal Social Security disability benefits.
- You lived in New Jersey continuously for at least the last 10 years, as either a homeowner or a renter.
- You owned and lived in your current home for at least the last 3 years.
- You paid the full amount of the property taxes due on your home.
- You met the income limitations to qualify for reimbursement of 2014 property taxes, you must have made less or equal to $84,289 in 2013, and below $70,000 in 2014.
Income Limitations A Moving Target:
These income limitations are a moving target set by the state each year which normally increase by a cost of living factor, but can be lowered (thus making qualifying more difficult) based on state budgetary constraints. The latter was the case this year, as Christie’s February budget proposal recommended maintaining the $70,000 limit for the 7th time in as many years. The program has come under fire in recent years due to the unpredictability of the income limitation and the potentially onerous process of filling out the forms to qualify. Once qualified, a single year where income exceeds the limitations does not disqualify you from future years.
Criticisms and limitations aside, the Property Tax Reimbursement program offers seniors the potential to avoid future property tax increases, giving people a reason to remain in their current home or at least in New Jersey at retirement.
For more information on the Senior Freeze program visit the New Jersey State Treasury Department’s website: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/ptr/
For eligibility requirements: http://www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/ptr/eligibility.shtml
Please contact us to discuss further.
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