One of the biggest changes will be to the homestead exemption. There are four categories of homestead exemption, but Guthrie said that only two of the exemptions will be impacted by the new rules: those who are over the age of 65 and those who are retired for a total disability. These people, some who have received the exemptions for years, will all have to recertify in person to receive it this year.
Those who receive an exemption for total disability or 65 or older will see the income cap raised from $7,500 annually to $12,000 annually per household. Any new applicant for the exemption must meet these standards and anyone who has previously qualified for the exemption must also requalify under the new standards.
Guthrie said these changes are particularly concerning since Walker County has the highest number of disability tax exempt persons
“This has created havoc, I understand, across the state,” Guthrie said. “It is going to bring roughly 5,300 more people through our office this year. We already have a little over 10,000 that normally, as a general rule, pay in person, and we have a little over 18,000 pieces of mail that come through.”
Guthrie said that he has approximately 2,800 Walker County residents who have not yet recertified for their exemptions.
“Just pray that, after this year, we never have to do this ‘in person’ recertification again,” Guthrie said. “It has been total chaos already.”
Guthrie’s advice to anyone who has to recertify is simple — get it over with. Although the deadline is the end of the year, Guthrie began trying to notify and inform residents early because he is concerned about the volume of residents that will be filing through his office.
“The reason I started early is to get people to come on in and not have these lines backed up to the courthouse square with people trying to reassess this year,” Guthrie said.
Guthrie said he hopes that the state will iron out the issues in the recertification process and make things easier for those renewing their exemption each year.
“It is our understanding that after this year, we will be able to do this by mail each year,” Guthrie said.