Gentile seeking tax relief for seniors – Times Leader

_NPB8292_2012©NannetteBedway

COLUMBUS – State Senator Lou Gentile (D-Steubenville) has introduced legislation in the Ohio Senate that would provide property tax relief to more senior citizens and disabled Ohioans. Senate Bill 122 would expand eligibility for the Homestead Exemption to those 65 and older and permanently and totally disabled Ohioans, regardless of income.

“This is a very meaningful benefit for those seniors living on a fixed income to help them maintain their quality of life as the cost of living continues to increase,” Senator Gentile said.

A law change in 2013 required means testing to determine eligibility for the Homestead Exemption. Ohioans turning 65 who have a household income of more than $30,000 are no longer eligible for the tax relief. Those qualifying for the benefit before the law change are grandfathered in. Gentile’s proposal would lift the income threshold providing more middle-income seniors with tax relief. Under the proposal, the state would use General Revenue Fund dollars to reimburse county governments so there would be no impact at the local level.

“Shifting the tax burden to Ohio’s seniors is the wrong approach, this legislation will provide middle-income seniors with much needed property tax relief,” Senator Gentile said.

The exemption, which takes the form of a credit on property tax bills, allows qualifying homeowners to exempt $25,000 of the market value of their home from all local property taxes. The exact amount of savings will vary from location to location, but on average, qualified homeowners should save about $400 per year across the state.

In 2007, Governor Strickland expanded eligibility for all seniors age 65 or older and Ohioans who are permanently disabled to qualify for the homestead exemption. Under HB 59 passed in 2013, the state of Ohio began means testing for eligibility. Beginning in 2014 homeowners 65 and older with a household income of $30,000 or less were eligible for the benefit. According to the non-partisan Legislative Service Commission approximately 40,000 households in Ohio were expected to lose the benefit under current law. This represents a loss of nearly $18 million a year for seniors who are no longer eligible for the benefit. Senator Gentile’s bill would eliminate this tax increase on some Ohioans.

Senate Bill 122 was referred to the Senate Ways and Means committee.