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Senior Tax Relief

A discussion of the senior tax relief ballot question to be voted upon at the December 4, 2012 Special Town Meeting.

On Dec. 4, 2012, we will be voting for two ballot questions. One of these questions concerns whether to grant certain of our town’s seniors partial real estate tax relief. Those seniors will be eligible whose income just hasn’t keep pace with their real estate taxes--whose taxes exceed 10% of their income.

You might be asking:

  1. How will that impact our budget?  Will there be a shortfall in revenues?
  2. Why should we help our seniors?
  3. Will the seniors get away with paying no taxes.

 Well, first things first. Those seniors who qualify, and that’s about 20-25% of the towns seniors, would need to be asset-tested to see if they meet the criteria for tax relief. The number of seniors who might qualify is about 200-300 Sudbury’s seniors.  Yes, they would still be paying taxes, but their taxes would be capped at 10% of their income.

 Our town budget won’t be impacted because the cost of senior tax relief will be spread around other citizens whose real estate taxes would increase by just 1/2% in the first year and 1% after that.  On average, using 2012 real estate tax figures, this means an increase of about $50 - $100 per household.

 We need our seniors.  Sudbury’s seniors have a lot of free time and they help the town by volunteering for the F.I.S.H. program, voting booth duty, town park maintenance, the Bridges program for the 4th grade, just to name a few services that seniors provide. The best part is that the town gets all these services at no cost!

The seniors will still be paying their real estate taxes, but no more than 10% of their income.  In addition, to qualify, the seniors need to have been town residents for at least 10 years.  Clearly since they send no children to town schools, but do pay taxes as they have been for the last 10 years, they support the schools but don’t burden the school budget.

If you want to hear more about this issue, come to the Goodnow Library on Nov. 27 at 7 PM for the League of Women Voters Forum and discuss this issue as well as the other ballot question.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

JT November 20, 2012 at 11:10 PM
As a 59 year old resident, with the last 28 of those in Sudbury, I will definitely vote no because there is no asset test.
Erich Waible November 20, 2012 at 11:30 PM
Not gonna argue with ambiguity. Thank you for posting Mr. Stein.
Erich Waible November 20, 2012 at 11:38 PM
So I'm going to assume after reading this bill, no one trusts the board or assesors and this so called circuit breaker tax relief does not take into account ones assets for eligibility?"
Mike Hullinger November 21, 2012 at 05:00 AM
In reading the tax relief bill it appears to me that: 1. The intended recipient of the tax exemption is a person over the age of 65 whose total income in the prior year would qualify them for the state's circuit breaker tax credit. (The income limit for joint filers is $80,000). 2. There is no specified asset test to qualify for the circuit breaker. The proposed Sudbury senior tax relief bill as written leaves the definition of "excess assets" up to the discretion of the Board of Assessors. The bill does not require the Board of Assessors to develop a uniform set of guidelines for what constitutes excess assets. The determination is made at the time someone applies for the tax exemption. I guess in theory, I could be the sole owner of a Sudbury residence with a $15,000 tax bill and have less than $53,000 in income. I would be entitled to a real estate tax exemption of $9,700 ($15,000 minus $5,300). My loving wife could have significant assets titled soley in her name including significant amounts of dividend paying marketable securities, interest bearing bonds and real estate. Since the tax relief bill as worded does not require me to file a joint application, I could file the application in my name only as the sole owner of the property here in Sudbury. With no assets in my name and little income in my name, i would qualify for the tax exemption. Seems like an easily constructed loophole. Perhaps someone else can comment on this view.
Erich Waible November 21, 2012 at 05:06 AM
So the bill in this form leaves too many loop holes. Wasn't sure if I was reading it right. Not very fair giving up to 50 % property tax relief when a 6th grader can jump rope through the loop hole. Thank you Mike. Seems like circuit breaker tax relief needs some fixing too.

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