Property tax relief available for qualified applicants
March 16, 2009 · Updated 5:15 PM
Annual Pierce County property tax statements were mailed mail last month. Although some statements are sent to property owners, most go directly to their mortgage companies. Pierce County Assessor-Treasurer Dale Washam wants taxpayers to know there are programs that give some property tax relief to qualified property owners.
The most popular program, aimed at senior citizens and disabled persons, freezes the value of the property, provides an exemption from paying excess levies and might also exempt the owner from a portion of the regular levy depending on the level of household income. To qualify, you must own and occupy a residence or mobile home, be at least 61 years of age by Dec. 31 of last year or be retired because of a physical disability (permanent or temporary), and have an annual gross household income of $35,000 or less. To determine eligibility, the county must use your total combined income, which is your income from any source and is not the same as “taxable income” used for federal income tax purposes.
Exemptions must be renewed once every four years unless there is a change in status or income. The exemption freezes the value of the residence as of Jan. 1 of the initial application year. The Assessor-Treasurer will continue to establish the market value of the property on an annual basis. The homeowner will be billed on the frozen value if it is less than the market value. Currently, 11,736 property owners in Pierce County participate in the program.
Two other programs for qualifying residents are:
• A full tax deferral program for qualifying senior citizens and disabled persons. The combined gross household annual income limit for the Senior Citizen/Disabled Persons Deferral program is $40,000. This program creates a lien against your property as you are deferring to the State of Washington to pay your property taxes. The annual rate of interest is 5 percent. The amount the State pays must be repaid upon the transfer of ownership of your property. There are 97 Pierce County property owners participating in this program.
• A limited tax deferral program. Like the situation above, the State of Washington will pay your second-half property tax bill this fall if you qualify. The property owner must repay the tax, plus 5 percent interest, if the owner no longer owns or uses the property. To qualify, you must have owned the home for at least five years, it must be your primary residents, your annual household income cannot exceed $57,000 for the prior year, you must have sufficient equity in your home, you must carry insurance on the property, and you must pay the first-half taxes due by April 30. The application deadline is Sept. 1. Seven taxpayers are currently participating in this program.
Applications are available on the Assessor-Treasurer’s web site at www.piercecountywa.org/atr.
Property owners also can contact the office by phone at 253-798-7146.
The Senior Citizen/Disabled Persons Hotline is 253-798-2169.