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Baltimore leaders push for homeowners to apply for tax credit

Baltimore officials are pushing for city homeowners to apply for a valuable property tax credit that helps those with modest incomes, particularly seniors.

Homeowners have until the end of the month to apply for the Homeowners Property Tax Credit, and some are worried that residents might miss out because government buildings and libraries have been closed for much of the year. With pandemic disruptions, paperwork may have slipped through the cracks, politicians and advocates said Tuesday.

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“We want every resident who is a homeowner to know about the Homeowners Property Tax Credit and not leave money on the table,” Mayor Brandon Scott said at a news conference Tuesday.

The property tax applies to city homeowners who have a household income of less than $60,000 per year. The credit is applied against the home’s property tax bill, with the goal of keeping taxes affordable so people don’t lose their homes.

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Homeowners have to apply each year, and the deadline is looming on Oct. 1.

Homeowners aged 70 and older can get payments retroactive to cover previous years if they were eligible but missed applying.

Marceline White, executive director of the nonprofit Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition, said she helped one senior citizen homeowner who received more than $5,800 in current and retroactive credits — enough to pay off his tax bill and then some.

Typically, the credit is worth about $1,000 to city homeowners, White said.

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“It’s real money that’s right there for you,” she said.

Some homeowners, particularly elders, may be reluctant to apply for a property tax credit, White said, but the program is designed especially with seniors in mind.

“The state put this in place for you, to help you age in place and live in your home with dignity,” White said.

Unpaid property taxes can land a homeowner on a tax sale list and ultimately could lead to them losing their home. Programs like the Homeowners Tax Credit can help people hang onto their homes and pass them to the next generation, keeping neighborhoods stable and building intergenerational wealth, advocates said.

Some homeowners could be due for even more money from the property tax credit. After an audit took issue with how the state calculated the tax credit for certain homeowners, the calculation was adjusted. And state lawmakers passed a law this year requiring homeowners who were negatively affected in past years — mostly in Montgomery County, but some in Baltimore and elsewhere — to be paid back.

The lead sponsors of the law were Montgomery County’s Sen. Craig Zucker and Del. Al Carr, both Democrats.

“I’m glad that the legislature decided that it is our intent to make sure that these folks are made whole,” said Sen. Cory McCray, chair of Baltimore’s senators and a co-sponsor of the law.

Applications for the Homeowners Property Tax Credit are available at Baltimore Community Action Partnership Centers and branches of the Enoch Pratt Free Library. The Maryland Consumer Rights Coalition created a website (marylandtaxcredit.com) and hotline (443-961-6220) to help people through the application process.

The state Department of Assessments and Taxation also has an online application system.

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