By Terri Ferguson Smith / email@example.com
The Meridian Star
To make things more convenient for taxpayers, officials are opening the doors to the Lauderdale County Tax Assessor's office for extra hours starting Saturday.
James Rainey, tax assessor, said the office will be open 8 a.m. until noon for taxpayers who need to file homestead exemption changes.
The office will also be open on two other Saturdays; on Feb. 23 and on March 23.
Knowing that some people have a hard time getting to the courthouse during Monday through Friday normal working hours, Rainey, who is serving the second year of his first four-year term as assessor, said he wants to make the office as accessible as possible to those who need to make changes to their homestead exemption status.
"Senior citizens want to manage their own affairs," Rainey said. "This will just make it more convenient for those who need to get a family member to bring them to the courthouse."
Many people do not know that they can apply for a Homestead Exemption, Rainey said. People who own their own homes can apply for an exemption for the house in which they live. That is an exemption of up to $300, a figure which is set by the Mississippi Legislature.
One hundred percent disabled people who meet certain requirements and have the proper documentation, may apply, and people over the age of 65 qualify for an exemption.
"I'm trying to do everything I can to promote everybody knowing about it," Rainey said.
If there are no changes to a person's homestead status, it is not necessary for them to visit the Tax Assessor's office. However, any change in a deed or a change in marital status, such as the death of a spouse, does mean that the person should go to the tax office and make the changes.
"When a person turns 65 or becomes disabled, they need to come in to file," Rainey said.
Any change in the deed to the property, such as a life estate or a trust, will trigger the system to reject the exemption, Rainey said, so any of those changes will need to be brought to the tax assessor's office.
"What I've noticed in this office, probably the biggest concern is an elderly person who goes to change a deed and they don't understand that. It kicks their homestead (exemption) out. It automatically rejects it. That means they have to come in and file again. If they don't they lose that year until they re-file."
Changes that would warrant a visit to the office include:
Purchased a new home in 2012,
First time filing for over 65 or for persons with a disability,
New deed put on the record,
Change in marital status,
Change in use of property,
Change in property description (bought, sold or gave part of land away),
Homestead denied the previous year, or
Change in occupancy of the home.
Taxpayers have until April 1 to file for Homestead Exemptions or make changes. For more information call (601) 482-9779.