CALAIS, Maine — Rarely does government give money back — except in the case of the Homestead Exemption provision and other tax-exemption programs.
The problem is, not everyone takes advantage of them.
City Manager Diane Barnes said last week there are several tax-exemption programs available to help eligible property taxpayers and business owners.
In addition to the Homestead Exemption, there also are exemptions for the blind and veterans, and a property tax and rent refund “circuit breaker.” There also is a Business Equipment Tax Exemption Program for business owners.
“There are some taxpayers out there that never ever applied for [the Homestead Exemption], and I don’t know if it is just that they are not informed or when they got an application they didn’t know how to fill it out,” Barnes said. “But we provide assistance here at the City Building to fill those out.”
She said the city recently sent out more than 100 Homestead Exemption applications to homeowners who were known to city employees but had not applied. More than half of the applications were returned. The city manager said she believes there are even more property owners who are unaware of the program.
City Tax Assessor Lorna Thompson said that under the Homestead Exemption a property taxpayer could save $13,000.
At last year’s mill rate, Barnes said, the savings on a $100,000 home was more than $300.
And the qualifications are not especially stringent: A person must be a legal resident of the state, have owned the property for the past 12 months, declare the homestead as a permanent residence and file by April 1. Summer camps, vacation homes and multiple residences do not qualify.
Although the government is giving back, the city is not on the hook for all of those savings to homeowners.
“We get reimbursed half of that from the state, and the other half the municipality picks up,” Thompson said.
Thompson said there also is a $4,000 exemption for blind people and a property tax exemption for veterans. There also is the property tax and rent refund program.
“If you meet the income guidelines and fall within that narrow guideline and either rent or own your own home, you can get a percentage of your tax bill back,” Thompson said.
For business owners, the Business Equipment Tax Exemption Program is a 100 percent property tax exemption for eligible property first subject to tax on or after April 1 of last year.
The city manager recommended that people stop by the City Building to see whether they are eligible for any or all of these programs. “The homestead is the big one — more people qualify for that than any of the others,” Barnes said.
For more information about either the residence or business tax exemptions, contact the City Building at 454-2521.