New law aims to lower tax bills for seniors

News-DemocratApril 26, 2013 

Newly-enacted state legislation aims to lower the property tax bills for seniors beginning next year.

The legislation raises the senior homestead exemption from $4,000 to $5,000. Such exemptions lower the taxable value of property and, in turn, tax bills.

The increased exemption translates into significant savings for local seniors. For example, the owner of a $100,000 home in East St. Louis could see an additional $157 in savings stemming from the new legislation.

Owners of a $100,000 home in Belleville will see savings of $85 and in O'Fallon a savings of $79. The difference in savings results from lower tax rates in those cities.

Gov. Pat Quinn signed the bill into law Tuesday. The expanded exemption takes effect for those 65 and older in Cook County this year, and all other Illinois counties in 2014.

"The new law will reduce property tax bills for seniors across Illinois," Quinn stated in a news release. "This boost in savings will relieve some of the financial burden faced by seniors and working families, and help ensure no one struggles to stay in their home."

If seniors are not already receiving the Senior Citizen's Homestead Exemption, they must apply at the assessor's departments in the St. Clair County Courthouse in Belleville and Madison County Administration Building in Edwardsville.

Are you paying too much in property taxes?

It's not too late to claim property tax exemptions before tax bills hit doorsteps this summer, according to St. Clair County Assessor Jennifer Gomric-Minton.

If you owned property as of Jan. 1, 2012, then you can still apply for 10 different tax exemptions available to residents along with veterans and fraternal groups. The exemptions include:

* Residents can lower the taxed value of their home by up to $6,000 just for living on the taxed property.

* If you improved your home, residents can claim a 4-year exemption on the increase in the home's value up to $25,000 per year.

* Seniors 65 years or older can lower the taxed value of their home by $4,000 ($5,000 next year).

* Seniors with an annual household income less than $55,000 can have the taxed value of their home frozen at its current value.

* Fraternal organizations can have property used to support charities frozen in value at 15 percent of the property's value.

* Disabled residents can claim an exemption lowering the taxed value of their homes by $2,000.

* Disabled veterans, not dishonorably discharged, can have the taxed value of their homes lowered by $2,500 to $5,000 depending upon the extent of their disability.

* Military veterans returning from active duty in an armed conflict can claim a one-time $5,000 exemption for the year of their return and the following year.

* Veterans with a 100 percent disability can claim an exemption reducing the taxed value of their home up to $70,000.

* Veterans organizations can freeze the value of their property at 15 percent of its total value as long as the property is the principal site of the group.

Contact reporter Daniel Kelley at dkelley@bnd.com or 618-239-2501.

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