Q. What property tax help is there for seniors?
— Senior

A. We in New Jersey have one of the highest property taxes in the nation.

The state has two programs that are supposed to help seniors with the costs: The Property Tax Reimbursement Plan, also called the “Senior Freeze,” and the Homestead Benefit Program.

The Senior Freeze program reimburses eligible senior citizens and disabled persons for property tax or mobile home park site fee increases on their principal residence, said Bernie Kielt, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with Kiely Capital Management in Morristown.

To qualify you must meet all the eligibility requirements for each year, from the base year through the current year.

The requirements for the Senior Freeze are:

    • You or your spouse/civil union partner were 65 or older or you were actually receiving Federal Social Security disability benefit payments. These benefit payments cannot be received on behalf of someone else.

 

    • You lived in New Jersey continuously for at least the last 10 years as either a homeowner or a renter.

 

    • You lived in your current home or mobile home for at least the last three years.

 

    • You earned $85,553 or less in 2014 and $70,000 or less in 2015 (2016 data not yet available). Income includes untaxed income such as Social Security and tax-exempt interest.

Kiely said the formula for the Senior Freeze is: property tax due and paid in the current year minus property taxes due and paid for the “base year” equals the amount of the reimbursement.

“The base year means the first year you met all the eligibility requirements,” Kiely said. “For example, a resident who first became eligible between Jan. 1, 1997 and Dec. 31, 1997 has a base year of 1997.”

The other program that New Jersey offers for seniors is the Homestead Benefit Program, often called the Homestead Rebate program.

Kiely said the 2014 Homestead Benefit applications will be mailed out over a three-week period in mid-September 2016. The deadline for filing this application is November 30, 2016.

“The years 2014 and 2016 are not typos,” Kiely said. “New Jersey is processing the 2014 Homestead Rebate in 2016.”

You may be eligible if you met all these requirements:

    • You were a New Jersey resident.

 

    • You owned and occupied a home in New Jersey that was your principal residence on Oct. 1, 2014. If you were not a homeowner on Oct. 1, 2014, you are not eligible for a homestead benefit, even if you owned a home for part of the year.

 

    • Property taxes for 2014 were paid on that home.

 

    • You earned $75,000 or less if you were under 65 or $150,000 and were age 65 or older. Unlike the Senior Freeze, these amounts do not include Social Security or tax-exempt income.

Kiely said if your 2014 income was $100,000 or less, your rebate is your 2014 real estate tax multiplied by 15 percent with a maximum rebate of $1,000. If your income was between $100,000 and $150,000, the credit is your property tax multiplied by 5 percent, with a maximum rebate of $500.

Email your questions to ask@njmoneyhelp.com.

Karin Price Mueller writes the Bamboozled column for The Star-Ledger and she’s the founder of NJMoneyHelp.com. Click here to sign up for the NJMoneyHelp.com weekly e-newsletter. Like NJMoneyHelp.com on Facebook and follow it on Twitter

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