Recently enacted Harford property tax credit bill has both good and bad points [Commentary]

The Aegis

The following are remarks presented in part to the Harford County Council during its legislative session on Tuesday, March 6, and provided to The Aegis by the author. They are condensed for publication. Editor

County Council Bill 17-021 titled “ Harford County Senior Citizens and Veterans Tax Credit” was passed on December 8, 2017. It became effective on February 6, 2018.

This bill provides for a 20 percent tax credit for a maximum of five years on county property taxes for individuals who are over 65 years of age, have a dwelling with an assessed value of $400,000 or less and who either: Own and have lived in the dwelling for at least 40 years, or who are retired from one of the United States’ Uniformed Services.

The eligibility requirements follow those established in the State of Maryland legislation signed in 2016 by Governor Hogan.

The county executive was quoted as saying after it was introduced: “The proposed tax credit will be provided to citizens that have lived here a long time, paid their dues and for those veterans who have served our country.”

What he did not say was that the elderly individual over 65 years of age who has lived his entire life in Harford County but not in the same dwelling for 40 consecutive years is not going to be eligible. I believe that person has without a doubt paid his dues but is ineligible under this bill.

Let’s look at the other requirement of 65 years of age or older and being retired from the one of the United States’ Uniformed Services.

Those veterans over 65 years of age who served their country in the active military, naval or air service, and withdrew from active service and were honorably discharged are not eligible for the tax credit, unless they made it a career and completed 20 years of active service.

So, for those veterans in Harford County who served their country overseas and risked their lives away from their families during World War II, the Korean War, Vietnam War, Gulf War and retired (meaning withdrew from active service) and were honorably discharged after four, eight, 12 or 16 years….sorry, you are not entitled to this tax credit.

I do not believe this is going to be a favorable bill as it will only be beneficial for a small percentage of households and veterans. It will become increasingly unfavorable when citizens get their property tax bill and find out the monetary discount, although small, for early payment has disappeared. There will be no incentive for early full payment.

I would like to recommend that the county do the following even though it will be after the application deadline this year.

With each property tax bill sent out this year in July include a good understandable summary of Bill 17-021. Explain the eligibility requirements in more precise detail and the reason why the early payment discount is no longer available. This is a certain means of getting the written word out and it will be beneficial to both the county and the citizens. Additionally, it will provide the transparency the county administration strives to provide.

Bill Wehland

Bel Air

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