Would a property tax freeze help your budget?

As costs for medications, groceries and gas continue to rise, senior citizens struggle to try to balance their limited budgets. The pressure of trying to manage finances seems like a tall order for our fixed income elders, especially when the slightest hiccup could wreck their whole budget.

With prescription drug prices and health care costs increasing by the day, our senior citizens haven't had too much to cheer about. However, in Tennessee, the state legislature approved a property tax freeze program that was approved by the voters in 2006 permitting local governments to implement the senior friendly legislation. Since the legislation's approval, municipalities across the state have approved local laws allowing for a property tax freeze giving our elderly citizens a financial break. All municipalities set their own guidelines, but typically to qualify for the tax freeze program, a resident must be at least 65 years old and they must show:

  • Proof of age- Medicare card, drivers license or passport
  • Proof of ownership of property- current tax bill or recorded deed, etc
  • Proof of property being a residence- voter registration, etc
  • Proof of income of the owners- tax return, etc. All county thresholds are different

Just this week, Chattanooga, Tennessee was scheduled to debate a property tax freeze program helping seniors cope with their rising property values and taxes. According to an article published in the Times Free Press the tax freeze would allow those 65 and older who own their home and have an annual household income of $38,720 or less to freeze their current property tax bill for their primary residence as long as they live and stay in their homes.

For those homeowners qualifying for the program, property taxes on their principal residence will be frozen at a base tax amount, which is the amount of taxes owed in the first year they qualify. As long as the owner continues to be eligible for the program, their property tax amount will not change regardless of any property tax increase. Chattanooga Councilwoman Carol Berz said she expects the council to support the property tax freeze and that it should have happened years ago. Many Chattanooga seniors see the property tax freeze as a tremendous help to their financial situation. Recently, more than 2 dozen senior citizens met with Chattanooga Mayor Andy Berke at Chattanooga's North Rivier Civic Center in Hixson where Jean Warren said it was an answer to a prayer.

According to the National Conference of State Legislature's website, property taxes are the primary source of revenue for local governments, but researchers at the National Center for Policy Analysis indicate that property tax is one of the most unpopular taxes. NCSL believes property taxes are unnerving for older Americans since they are living on fixed incomes and can easily be priced out of their homes. Property tax freeze programs have been around for over 20 years, but Oklahoma was the first state in the country to implement the program to lend a helping hand to our senior citizens and they continue to have the law on the books. To date, most all states across the United States have homestead exemptions and tax credits in place to assist senior citizens, but there are only six states who have property tax freeze programs in place to help our elders. If you are interested in a property tax freeze in your state, contact your legislator today. Remember, they work for you!


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