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    Last chance for some homeowners to qualify for tax break

    County auditors are now accepting applications for enrollment in the Homestead Exemption Program for 2014, and according to Montgomery County Auditor Karl Keith this may be the last chance for some homeowners to qualify for this property tax break.

    "An income restriction imposed by state lawmakers last year will limit who is eligible for the Homestead Exemption credit in the future," Keith said. "But there is a window of opportunity for anyone who was eligible last year to enroll in the program under the old guidelines."

    More than 48,000 homeowners in Montgomery County were enrolled in the Homestead Exemption Program last year. Those homeowners saw a reduction in their annual real estate taxes by an average of more than $600 by being in the program according to the Auditor’s office.

    "This is a welcome tax break for eligible senior and disabled homeowners, but last minute provisions in last year’s state budget bill will affect who is eligible to receive these benefits in the future," Keith said.

    According to Keith, new rules governing the program are in effect for this year and will impact eligible homeowners in one of three ways depending on their status -- whether the homeowner is a new applicant, a late applicant or a past recipient.

    Keith says that if you are a new applicant – meaning that you own your home and will turn 65 years old in 2014 or become permanently and totally disabled – you will now be subject to an income test to qualify for the program. The new rules require applicants to have a total household income of $30,500 or less to be eligible.

    The Auditor indicated that late applicants, homeowners who qualified for the Homestead Exemption last year but failed to signup, may enroll in the program in 2014 and qualify under the old rules, meaning they will not be subject to the new income restriction.

    "If you qualified for the program last year but failed to enroll for whatever reason, you can file in 2014 as a late applicant and you will not have to meet the income test," Keith said.

    Keith also stated that past recipients will continue to qualify for the Homestead Exemption under the old rules. Current recipients do not need to re-apply, will never be subject to any income test, and will continue to receive the benefits of the program even if they sell their current residence and purchase a new home in the future.

    "The new rules that go into effect this year mean major changes, and how those changes impact eligible homeowners will depend on their status," Keith said. "If you have questions regarding your status or need additional information, we encourage you to contact our office at 225-4341."

    The deadline to apply for the Homestead Exemption for both new applicants and late applicants is Monday, June 2, 2014. Applications are available by calling the Auditor’s Homestead Hotline at 225-4341 or can be downloaded from the Auditor’s website at www.mcauditor.org.

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