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Property tax exemptions may help some residents



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November 07, 2007
Editor's note: The following guest column was submitted by Sally Eilersen. Eilersen, a resident of Almont, is the Lapeer County Treasurer.

Poverty Exemptions have been in the news lately, especially as readers follow the investigations being held into allegedly fraudulent exemptions granted in the City of Detroit. Here in Lapeer County, local governments want residents to know that Poverty Exemptions are a good, legal way to help homeowners in trouble. But time is running out to apply for 2007.

Every township and city in Lapeer County wants its residents to know that Poverty Exemptions for 2007 property taxes are available. Exemptions are available under Michigan State Law MCL 211.7u, which states in part: "The principal residence of persons who, in the judgment of the supervisor and board of review, by reason of poverty, are unable to contribute toward the public charges is eligible for exemption in whole or in part from taxation under this act."

That means that a person or family living at or below poverty levels can have their current year's property taxes reduced or eliminated on their owner-occupied primary residence (homestead) or qualified agricultural property.

In order to receive the exemption, a homeowner must get an application from their township or city. Village residents should apply at their township hall. The completed application, along with any required supporting documents such as tax returns, etc., must be returned to the township by November 30th in order to be considered at the December Board of Review. When picking up or returning the application, the taxpayer will be told when to meet with the Board of Review. While attending the meeting in person is not required, it is very helpful in case the Board has questions or needs clarification.

The Poverty Exemption granted by townships and cities can actually reduce or eliminate the amount of the current 2007 property tax bill, but only the 2007 tax bill. It cannot help with past or future years. That is why it is so important to apply by November 30. After the December Board of Review meets, it is too late to apply for this year.

Homeowners who have had Poverty Exemptions in the past must apply again for the current year. By law, this is an annual application process. There is no limit to the number of years a homeowner can qualify for the exemption, but it must be applied for each year.

The poverty standards used by the townships and cities are the Federal Poverty Guidelines as published in the Federal Register and posted on the Health and Human Services website at http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/07poverty.shtml. Boards of Review are to take into account the income and assets of the entire household when reaching a decision.

The Poverty Exemption granted by townships and cities is not the same as the Hardship Extension granted by the county treasurer for delinquent taxes. Standards, applications and results are very different for the two types of exemptions. Homeowners can apply for one or both of them. However, homeowners must be aware of the differences. The county treasurer can only give homeowners more time to pay delinquent taxes for homes in danger of tax foreclosure. She cannot reduce or waive any taxes, interest or fees. The hardship exemption for delinquent taxes is available at www.county.lapeer.org/treasurer. This application is NOT the one to use when applying for a Poverty Exemption for 2007 taxes from the township or city.

Poverty Exemptions granted by townships and cities can reduce or eliminate the current tax bill–2007 summer and winter taxes– for homeowners living at or below the poverty level. If you think you might qualify, please contact your township or city hall as soon as possible. Applications for 2007 must be completed by November 30, 2007.

For a list of local government offices, visit the Lapeer County Clerk's website at http://www.county.lapeer.org/Clerk/locgov.htm or look in the front government section of your Lapeer County phone book.

If you have any questions please contact the treasurer's office at 255 Clay St., Suite 303, Lapeer, MI 48446-2205.

Phone: 810-667-0239; Fax: 810-667-0263 or email

seilersen@lapeercounty.org.

Castle Creek
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