Do good deeds, pay less in property taxes … but there’s a catch
Would you do volunteer work for your town if it meant you would get a nice break on your property taxes?
A pair of New Jersey legislators are taking a page from Massachusetts, where there is a law that allows residents to do pro bono work for their municipalities in exchange for tax credits. The Garden State could soon offer the same deal to a very narrow category of residents, if their bill moves ahead.
“This would permit a voluntary program by the municipalities that would have people volunteer, and in return they would have a reduction on their property taxes up to $1,000,” said State Sen. Nia Gill (D-Montclair).
Sounds like a great deal, right? But there are catches.
“It would have to be someone who is 60 and over and lived in the community for at least 15 years," Gill said.
That's not all: Under the bill (S-2524), the person would have to have owned a home in the town for a least a decade and a half. The measure would let any town, by resolution, create a Municipal Volunteer Property Tax Reduction Program.
The town would decide the type of volunteer work residents could do and the amount of property tax credits, up to $1,000 per tax year, that a volunteer would get for his or her service.
“They can do things like help out in the library. They could help out in a nursing home. They could do so many different things,” said bill co-sponsor State Sen. Diane Allen (R-Cinnaminson).
There are other restrictions. The property tax credits couldn’t carry over from year to year, and credits earned in a tax year would have to be applied to the taxes owed only for that tax year. A town that creates a volunteer program couldn't use volunteers for any job salaried in the municipal budget.
This would not only help the homeowners volunteering, but also their families, Gill predicted. She said children and other relatives would have the peace of mind knowing their parents, uncles, aunts and others were going to stay in the houses where they’ve lived for so long and raised their kids.
“I have a lot of people come to my office and say, ‘I just can’t afford the taxes. I’m on a limited, fixed income. There’s nothing I can do. I don’t know how I’m going to pay these taxes,'" Allen said.
Any town that creates a volunteer program would have to tell the director of the Division of Local Government Services in the Department of Community Affairs so that it could be vetted to make sure is runs correctly.
Kevin McArdle has covered the State House for New Jersey 101.5 news since 2002. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on twitter at @kevinmcardle1.