Save Money on Homestead Exemption

Adrianne O. Vidrine  |  4/7/2011 9:41:58 PM

Attention homeowners! You may be eligible for the Louisiana Special Assessment Level that freezes the assessed value of your home with homestead exemption if you meet certain criteria. The special assessment level will freeze the assessed value of your home, but not the tax rate, which is subject to change. The freeze remains in effect as long as the property is owned by the applicant and the value does not increase by more than 25 percent due to construction or reconstruction.

Special Qualifications for Seniors:

The Special Assessment Level applies to the homestead of persons age 65 or older that have an adjusted gross income of less than $65,891.00. To qualify, you must bring proof of income for the previous year such as a tax return of the Social Security Benefits Earnings Statement. This special assessment level is lost if the property is transferred, improvements are made in excess of 25 percent of property value, or if the owner’s adjusted gross income exceeds the set level.

The surviving spouse can qualify if they are over 55 and meet the other qualifications of the exemption. You must be 65 years of age or older to apply for this freeze. This freeze is a permanent freeze. You do not have to sign up each year. After meeting the above listed requirements, you do not have to come in each year to reapply.

Special Qualifications for Persons with Disabilities:

Veterans with a service connected disability rating of fifty percent or more by the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs and persons that are permanently totally disabled as determined by a judgment of a court or as certified by a state or federal administrative agency may qualify for the freeze if they meet the income requirement as stated above. There is no age qualification for this freeze. This freeze must be applied for each year, and the individual applying for the freeze must provide the Assessor’s Office documentation that proves the amount of the disability.

Please note this freeze applies only to the land and buildings that are eligible for homestead exemption. Only the assessed value of these items will be frozen. The millage rate and therefore the taxes are not being frozen.

I believe that all senior homeowners, the disabled and qualifying veterans should take advantage of the benefits afforded by law that affect the amount of property taxes you may owe. For complete details about the program and to apply for the freeze, please go to your tax assessor’s office. Applicants need to bring their 2010 Income Tax Return and driver’s license. Applications will be accepted up to but no later than June 30, 2011.

In addition to the information above regarding Louisiana Special Assessment Level, I would like to share a couple of frequently asked questions regarding property taxes.

What is meant by millage rates or mills?

Millage is the percentage of value that is used in calculating taxes. A mill is defined as 1/10 of 1 percent and is multiplied by the assessed value after any exemptions have been subtracted to calculate the taxes. For example, if the tax rate is 150 mills and total assessed value is $10,000 with no exemptions, the taxes would be calculated as $10,000 x .150 = $1,500.00. If for the same house you had a homestead exemption, the taxes would be $10,000 - $7,500 (Homestead Exemption) = $2,500.00 x .150 = $375.00 in taxes. This demonstrates the importance of filing a homestead exemption.

What causes property values to change?

A property’s value can change for many reasons. The most obvious reason is that physical changes may have been made to the property such as additions, improvements or major damage. The most frequent cause of change in value is a change in the market. The assessor does not create value. People make value by their transactions in the market place.

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