Seniors get property tax relief

The county approves an additional $15,000 homestead exemption for low-income seniors.

By BILL VARIAN, Times Staff Writer
Published October 18, 2007

TAMPA - Regardless of what happens with the state Legislature, low-income seniors in Hillsborough can expect some additional property tax relief next year.

County commissioners voted unanimously Wednesday to give seniors with an annual household income of roughly $23,000 or less an additional $15,000 homestead exemption.

The added exemption doesn't apply until next year, and only affects the part of seniors' tax bill that goes to Hillsborough County, not to schools or other taxing agencies. The savings will be about $90 a home annually.

Some commissioners expressed reticence about approving the measure as legislators consider changes to the property tax system, but relented after learning it should cost the county less than a half-million dollars.

Commissioner Brian Blair, who championed the proposal, noted that the tax cut applies to the poorest of homeowning seniors. The Legislature is not guaranteed to approve changes that provide them tax relief as it discusses the topic in a special session.

"We don't know what they're going to do in Tallahassee," Blair said.

Homeowners of homesteaded properties get an exemption that knocks $25,000 off the property's taxable value. Additionally, commissioners have previously approved an added $25,000 exemption for low-income seniors on the county portion of their tax bills.

Wednesday's vote boosts the total senior exemption for low-income residents to $40,000, an amount that will grow in future years and currently shaves about $230 from their tax bill.

Seniors must apply for the exemption annually and provide income verification.

Bill Varian can be reached at varian@sptimes.com or 813 226-3387.