Property tax freeze still debated by commissioners

Posted By | February 13, 2009 12:00 am

County commissioners said they want to know more about a Tennessee law passed in July 2007 that allows them to determine if qualifying taxpayers who are more than 65 years of age can have their property taxes frozen at a specific rate.
Members of Steering Committee B discussed the matter during a Monday night meeting, with at least three of them stating they need details about their options.
On July 1, 2007, the “Property Tax Freeze Act” went into effect after being passed by Tennessee General Assembly in June of the same year.
This act allows the legislative body of any county or municipality to adopt by resolution or ordinance the property tax freeze program established in the act. The law applies to tax years beginning on and after Jan. 1, 2008.
The Act specifies the property tax freeze program is not intended to displace other forms of property tax relief available under existing statutes.
Under the provisions of the Act, the property tax freeze will only apply to the principal residence and no more than five acres of land.
Taxpayers seeking the property tax freeze must apply annually to the county trustee’s office by the deadline established in the program rules. Applicants must qualify on the basis of age, income and ownership of eligible property. An applicant must be 65 by the end of the year in which the application is filed. The applicant must own and use the property as his/her principal residence. The applicant’s income, along with the income of any owners of the property who also resided at the location, may not exceed the statutory income limit.
The State Comptroller of the Treasury calculates the income limits annually on a county-by-county basis using guidelines set in the state law. White County’s income limit is set at $25,360, according to the 2009 figures released by the State Comptroller of the Treasury.
Twenty counties and 18 cities have already adopted the property tax freeze program. Eight of the 20 counties adopted the program in 2007 and 12 in 2008. One city adopted the program in 2007, with the remaining 17 passing the ordinance in 2008.
The benefits of the tax freeze program would be in addition to the Tax Relief Program already in effect by the state. Approval for Tax Relief serves as evidence of age and income for purposes of the tax freeze. However, rules about the ownership and residency differ between the two programs. A separate application for the tax freeze would be required.
According to White County Trustee’s Office, there are 706 taxpayers who are on the Tax Relief Program. These same 706 would be the ones to qualify for the Tax Freeze Program.
City of Sparta also has the option of implementing a Tax Freeze Program, but no action has been taken.

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