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November 20, 2005



Governor Mitt Romney today signed legislation to lower the property tax burden for Massachusetts senior citizens, which he said will help more seniors stay in their homes.


“With the rise in property values, it makes it difficult for seniors to stay in their homes,” said Romney. “Seniors should be able to stay as long as they want in the homes where they’ve raised families and created a lifetime of fond memories.”


Under current state law, homeowners 65 or over who meet certain income eligibility requirements may receive an annual state income tax credit of up to $840 if their house is valued at $400,000 or less. As house values have risen, however, fewer seniors have become eligible for credits. The bill the Governor signed into law today raises the property value threshold to $600,000, making more seniors eligible for tax relief.


A qualifying taxpayer is one whose real estate tax payment exceeds 10 percent of total income, and whose joint income does not exceed $60,000, or $40,000 for a single taxpayer.


Under the new law, annual increases in the eligibility threshold will be based on increases in property values statewide rather than on the inflation rate, as was the case under the old law. Basing eligibility on inflation is unfair as home values tend to rise faster than inflation. This means seniors will not be priced out of receiving the credit in future years due to increased values.


“Our senior citizens are already facing steep increases in home heating costs this winter, and many will soon be forced to make tough choices in order to stay warm,” said House Minority Leader Brad Jones, the bill’s sponsor. “Allowing more seniors to qualify for a break on their property taxes will keep money in their pockets and help them through this tough time. I want to thank Governor Romney for signing this very important bill.”


The law also allows cities and towns the option of charging seniors a lower rate of interest on property tax bills they have deferred. Under the current law, people 65 or older with gross receipts up to $20,000 can defer property tax payments but must pay eight percent annual interest on the amount deferred. Now, cities and towns have the option of lowering that interest rate to as low as zero percent.


Deferred taxes are to be repaid to the municipality on the owner’s demise or property transfer, together with the interest.


“It’s critical to maintain this important form of tax relief as housing costs escalate,” said Senator Bruce Tarr. “This timely action by the Legislature and the Governor will promote stability among senior households.”





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