Our view: Land tax exemptions
by Daily Mountain Eagle
Aug 19, 2012 | 779 views | 0 0 comments | 5 5 recommendations | email to a friend | print
A change in Alabama law exempting disabled homeowners and homeowners 65 and older from paying property taxes has created much confusion and will cause more than 5,000 Walker County residents to have to re-apply for the exemption this year.

Portions of the law regarding who’s eligible to receive exemptions were changed during the 2012 legislative session under HB 120, sponsored by Rep. Jack Williams (R-Vestavia Hills). That bill expanded the income threshold on homestead exemptions from $7,500 per year to $12,000 per year for those aged 65 and older.

Unlike the old law, the new wording also includes the income of property owners’ spouses in their household’s annual total. And, the new $12,000 income threshold now applies to everyone over age 65, including those who are permanently disabled.

Walker County Revenue Commissioner Jerry Guthrie said anyone affected by the change will receive a letter from the revenue commission office explaining the recertification process.

While raising the income threshold will help many Alabama residents, language in the bill has created confusion over who is eligible for the exemption.

The bill says residents must be “retired,” which could leave out some with disabilities if they have never worked. Revenue commissioners throughout Alabama are unclear how to interpret the law, but Guthrie said residents with total disability should be eligible.

As it is written now, revenue commissioners are free to interpret the law as they see fit.

The re-application process will continue through Dec. 31 and must be done in person. If someone cannot physically make it to the revenue commissioner’s office, they must designate a person to bring their documentation.

While the jury is still out on whether or not this law will be beneficial to Alabama residents, one thing that’s for sure is that courthouses across the state will see larger crowds due to the law. Walker County citizens should re-apply as soon as possible to help alleviate those crowds.