Bill 'freezes' home value tax for seniors, people with disabilities

Whitney Downard / The Meridian Star

James Rainey, the Lauderdale County Tax Assessor, said some homeowners have an option to "freeze" their home values for taxation purposes following a 2018 state senate bill.

Updated at 10:10 a.m. March 26.

Homeowners with disabilities or over over the age of 65 may "freeze" the value their home for tax purposes, following a 2018 Mississippi law. 

"The law is intended to prevent value increases for 65 and older and disabled homeowners," James Rainey, the Lauderdale County Tax Assessor, said. 

Rainey said that meant homeowners that qualify could register their home value to "freeze" at the current value for tax purposes, instead of receiving a higher value every few years. This year is the first year homeowners could potentially see those effects.

"In the past, normally the index goes up so people see an increase," Rainey said. "In the future, their values cannot go up anymore so long as they own the house and live there."

This doesn't mean taxes will stay the same every year, Rainey cautioned, noting that additional taxes or tax raises will still be applied to the house. 

"If the value was $75,000, it will stay at $75,000 so long as you own the home," Rainey said. "And it goes to market value when you leave the home."

Unless elected officials raise or add taxes, the taxation of a home would be the same from year to year, despite value increases, under the law.

"I'm excited for the people on a fixed income," Rainey said, pointing out that it especially benefited those with limited means.

Rainey said 44 percent of homeowners were elderly or had a disability in Lauderdale County, meaning those homeowners could apply for the benefit. The value of the home will change if homeowners decide to renovate or create an addition.

April 1 will be the deadline for homeowners to register under the new law or apply for the homestead exemption. To accommodate full-time employees, the Tax Assessor's office will be open from 8 a.m. to noon on Saturday, March 30 to finalize applications. Taxpayers who already have filed for a senior or disability exemption need not reapply unless they incurred a change this year.

"If you miss the deadline, we can't accept it," Rainey said. 

Rainey said that legal homeowner residents who comply with income tax requirements can be eligible for up to $300 in savings, with no age limits. Applicants should bring or know their vehicle tag numbers, social security numbers (for owner and/or spouse), property purchase price, down payment amount, name of previous owner and proof of age or disability, if applicable. 

Purchasing a new home, the death of a spouse, change in marital status, renting or change in occupancy can mean applicants need to re-apply for the Homestead Exemption, Rainey said. 

The Tax Assessor's office assesses more than 46,000 parcels annually, inspecting one-quarter each year and "drive-by" assessing the remaining properties on a rotating schedule. Under this system, houses receive new values, in accordance to index increases, every four years.

The office also maintains more than 300 maps of county properties, with the county's properties valued at $3 billion last year. The office also assesses business properties. 

"I'm passionate about getting the word out," Rainey, who is running unopposed in November, said. "I just feel like it's important to have this information."

Rainey encouraged homeowners with any questions to call (601) 482-9779 for more information. 

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