Senior citizens are often looking for ways to save money, and one way they can do this is by getting property tax breaks. As you age, your total income decreases, often relying solely on retirement funds and fixed incomes while the cost of livingremains the same or even increases. Thankfully, many states offer property tax breaks to their senior citizens, but is Arizona one of them?
There are ways Arizona seniors can obtain a property tax break through state programs, such as the Senior Property Valuation Protection Program and the Maricopa County Elderly Assistance Fund. Alternatively, they can apply for a property tax exemption or tax deferral. They must be eligible and apply for these options.
This article lists options for Arizona seniors to get a tax break on their property. We’ll discuss what each option entails, the relief it will provide, and the eligibility requirements. Additionally, you’ll find application resources in this article, so you know exactly where to go for each option. To close, we’ll discuss tips for how you can potentially reduce your property taxes without the help of state or federal programs.
Arizona State Programs That Provide Property Tax Relief
The idea of paying taxes isn’t necessarily a foreign concept, especially for seniors who have been paying countless types of taxes their entire lives, property taxes being one of them. Still, after 65+ years of paying taxes, the financial burden can catch up to seniors and become more than they can bear, which is why they seek out ways to reduce or eliminate it completely.
In Arizona, seniors can get property tax break programs such as:
• The Senior Property Valuation Protection Program
• The Maricopa County Elderly Assistance Fund
• Standard Property Tax Exemption
• Standard Property Tax Deferral
Determining which option is best for any Arizona senior will depend on their age, marital status, income, and other relevant factors. So, let’s discuss each in more detail, so you know what they entail and can decide which fits your or your senior loved one’s circumstances and needs best.
Senior Property Valuation Protection Program
The Senior Property Valuation Protection Program is utilized by roughly 22,000 Arizona seniors and was designed to “freeze” the home values of which seniors are taxed for the duration of three years after acceptance. Typically, seniors will seek out this option specifically if the value of homes surrounding theirs is increasing for any number of reasons.
By obtaining help from this program, they can rest easy for three years that the value their home is currently taxed will remain the same until they must reapply when the freeze period ends.
One of the most significant benefits of this program is that the freeze doesn‘t affect the home‘s resale price. So, if a senior considers selling their home within those three years, they don’t have to be concerned that this program is reducing their home’s overall value.
In order to be eligible for this program:
• At least one property owner must be 65 years old at the time of application.
• The property must be the 65+-year-old owner’s primary residence (meaning they have occupied the property for an aggregate of nine months of the calendar year).
• Proof of trustees must be provided upon application if the property is held in trust.
• All gross income, taxable and non-taxable, of all owners must not exceed $40,368 for one owner or $50,460 for two or more owners.
• Documentation of gross income must be provided upon application (W-2’s, 1099’s, & tax returns).
In addition to these requirements, the primary property must remain in the property owners’ possession for the entirety of the freeze, or the program benefits are forfeit.
How to Apply
You can find a printable copy of the 2022 Arizona State Senior Property Valuate Protection Program here. This document must be printed, completed, and submitted in person to the County Assessor’s Office.
Maricopa County Elderly Assistance Fund
This option is far more exclusive in terms of how many seniors are eligible. However, it is still a legitimate option for the one million or so who live in Maricopa County.
The Maricopa County Elderly Assistance Fund is a program that is administered through the Maricopa County Treasurer’s Office and designed to provide property-tax subsidies to seniors who receive relief from the Senior Property Valuation Protection Program. The 14,000 or so seniors who receive this program reap the benefits of receiving about $200 per year on top of the benefits of the aforementioned program.
In order to be eligible for this program:
• The senior must be a resident of Maricopa County.
• The senior must be eligible for the Senior Property Valuation Protection Program and have been accepted to receive assistance from this program.
How to Apply
Thankfully, if you’re a senior in Maricopa County who was accepted for the Senior Property Valuation Protection Program, you will automatically be registered for the Maricopa County Elderly Assistance Fund.
Property Tax Exemption
Although they are limited, property tax exemption programs do exist in Arizona and might be the best option for you or a senior loved one in the event the property owner is a widow/widower or deemed “totally disabled.”
This program is designed to reduce the assessed value of individually–owned residences for a maximum exemption amount of $4,117. While this won’t freeze your home’s value like the Senior Property Valuation Protection Program, reducing its overall value will mean the senior’s regular property taxes will also decrease, providing a degree of tax relief.
In order to be eligible for this program:• The residency must not exceed a total assessed value of$27,970.• Household income cannot exceed $34,301 for a household with no children under the age of 18 and $41,151 for a household with children under the age of 18.• If the applicant is a widow/widower, then the deceasedspouse must have resided in Arizona at the time of their death, or the applicant must have moved to Arizona prior to January 1, 1969.• If the applicant is a widow/widower, then a death certificate must also be provided upon application.• If the applicant is a disabled person, they must submit a Certification of Disability for Property Tax Exemption that deems the applicant as “totally and permanently disabled” by a physician.
How to Apply
You can find a printable copy of the Affidavit of Individual Tax Exemption applicable to both parties here. This document must be printed, completed, and submitted in person to the County Assessor’s Office. For applicants with disabilities, you can find the Certification of Disability for Property Tax Exemption here.
Property Tax Deferral
A property tax deferral might not give seniors the property tax relief they crave in terms of financial aid. Still, it does give them another potentially equally-beneficial form of relief: time.
These programs are designed to allow accepted applicants to defer property taxes on their primary residence for the duration of one taxable year. Once accepted, the county treasurer will issue the senior a certificate of deferral for their residency thatstates the amount of taxes that are being deferred for this period and the rate of interest that accrues in that time.
When the deferral period has ended, the total amount of deferred property taxes must be paid along with interest and other costs that accrued during the deferral.
This option is ideal for seniors who might not have the money to make regular property tax payments but are confident they will have the money to pay off their deferred taxes along with any accrued when given the extra time to save and prepare.
In order to be eligible for this program:• The residency property cannot be income-producing, and its total cash value cannot exceed $150,000.• The property must be classified as Class 3.• “Property of residency may not be subject to the lien of any mortgage, reverse mortgage, deed of trust or other real property security interest that has been of record for less than 5 years before the date the deferral claim form is filed.”• The senior applicant must be at least 70-years-old.• The applicant’s total taxable income cannot exceed $10,000.• The applicant must have lived in the property for at least 6 years prior to the date of application, or they must have lived in the state of Arizona for at least 10 years prior to the date of application (both spouses must meet these requirements if the applicant is married).
How to Apply
You can find a printable copy of the Qualifications for a Property Deferral and the Residential Property Deferral Claim forms here. This document must be printed, completed, and submitted in person to the County Assessor’s Office.
Are There Other Ways to Lower Property Tax for Arizona Seniors?
All of the previously listed programs are legitimate ways that Arizona senior citizens over the age of 65 or 70 can receive breaks for their property taxes. Unfortunately, we’ll admit that it can be challenging to be eligible and receive many of these options, especially considering one is only available in one Arizona county.
Luckily, there are ways you can lower your property taxes as an Arizona senior without filing claim after claim for these state and federal programs. Some examples include:• Corroborate your property tax card.• Compare your home‘s value with neighboring residences.• Look into veteran exemptions.• Appeal your tax bill.
The goal of these options is to ultimately reduce the assessed value of your primary residency and, by extent, your property tax bill. While it might seem counter-intuitive to have your home’s value intentionally decreased, sometimes assessors will gift it a value that’s really higher than it should be, especially compared to other homes in the neighborhood.
Therefore, consider looking into these additional options if you’re in a financial pickle and are struggling to keep up with your property taxes as an Arizona senior.
Corroborate Your Property Tax Card
Every residency in the state of Arizona has its own property tax card filed away at the town hall that states various details of the property, such as its size, number of rooms, various features, and most importantly, the home’s value and what contributes to this number.
As the owner of this residency, you‘re within your rights to request a copy of your property tax card to see what your residency is valued at and why. If you think you’re paying too much in your property taxes, we recommend getting your hands on a copy of this card and corroborating everything on it.
If anything you read seems incorrect, you can voice these concerns with a tax assessor who might reduce the value of your home.
Compare Your Home’s Value with Neighboring Residences
While this isn’t always the case, sometimes the fastest way to see if you’re overpaying on your property taxes is to compare it to nearby residences.
This doesn’t mean you should go door-to-door on your street and start asking everyone what their property is worth. Thankfully, this information is usually accessible to the public at the local town hall. Here, you can see what homes directly adjacent to yours and in the general neighborhood or even town are valued.
If yours seems oddly high compared to the others, this gives you grounds to visit the local tax assessor and ask if there’s been a discrepancy with your home’s value assessment.
Look Into Veteran Exemptions
This could have arguably been listed amongst the other tax exemption programs. Still, either way, if you are a senior citizen in the state of Arizona, you will likely be eligible for some form of state or government aid.
However, as far as property taxes are concerned, assistance for this financial burden is only available to disabled veterans. These individuals may receive a property tax exemption of $3,000 on their primary residence as long as the total assessed value does not exceed $10,000 and they fulfill other eligibility requirements.
Appeal Your Tax Bill
It certainly isn’t the easiest or quickest way to get your regular property taxes reduced, but if you’re in dire need of help and you’ve exhausted all other options, you can always attempt to appeal your tax bill.
To do this, you’ll need to hire a lawyer and pay their service fees along with the fee for filing an appeal claim. Your lawyer will then amass all information necessary for your appeal before a board reviews it.
Once the board has your claim and all associated information, they will review it and compare your property value to nearby residences and all information from recent assessments. They will then determine whether they will approve or deny your appeal. If it’s approved, you’ll see your property value and its connected property taxes reduced.
There’s no denying that property taxes can be a substantial financial burden for any property owner, but seniors have atough time bearing the weight of these regular payments. Hopefully, at least one, if not more, of the options listed here can help you as an Arizona senior or someone you know pay a little less on their property taxes, or better yet, pay nothing at all for a period.
Just make sure you weigh the pros and cons of each option carefully to ensure being accepted by these programs is actually going to help you rather than cause greater financial strain later on.