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Wednesday, June 24, 2015

How to pay less taxes, Part 3: tax credits for the blind or disabled

There are legal ways for you to reduce your property taxes

By Will Collette

As our 2015 tax bills are being prepared for mailing very soon - at the brand-new rate of $10.11 per $1,000 in assessed property value, we're updating and re-running some earlier articles we ran on ways you can cut your property taxes. If you qualify for the ones discussed in this article, they would apply to your tax bill next year. But it's never to late to apply.

For the earlier articles on how to get a waiver if you fall behind on your taxes and how to appeal your property assessment, click on these links:

Part 1: Overview and waiver of interest on late payments

Part 2: Appealing your assessment

Charlestown offers a tax credit of $500 to full-time resident homeowners who are blind under the definition in the state statute and $575 to persons who are deemed 100% disabled by the Social Security Administration.

To apply for the tax credit for the blind, go to Town Hall with your doctor’s statement detailing the condition of your eyesight.

To apply for the tax credit for the 100% disabled, download the application form on-line or pick one up at Town Hall. Attach your eligibility determination letter from Social Security.

For either tax credit, you must be a permanent Charlestown resident and own the home to which the tax credit will be applied.

The language in the town’s ordinances on these two tax credits is reasonably clear, so I am including it below the fold.


[Adopted 4-13-1987 as Ch. 155]

§ 192-19 Purpose. 

[Amended 8-28-1995 by Ord. No. 202; 5-13-2002 by Ord. No. 241]
The purpose of this article shall be to provide a real and personal property tax exemption of $500 as a tax dollar credit for blind persons pursuant to G.L. 1956 § 44-3-12.

§ 192-20 Eligibility. 

Any blind person newly applying for this property tax exemption shall be deemed eligible upon complying with the following:
A.  Complete and submit an application form to the Town Tax Assessor no later than January 31.

B.  Submit, with said application, documentation from a licensed eye physician as to the condition of the applicants eyes.

C.  Said documented condition of the applicant's eyes must meet the guidelines stated in G.L. 1956 § 44-3-12.

D.  Applicant must be a legal resident of the State of Rhode Island and the Town of Charlestown.

E.  Those applicants who received this exemption prior to passage of this article shall be deemed eligible for this exemption, if they received such benefit on the last certified tax roll, ending December 31, 1985.

According to state law (RIGL 44-3-12) a person who qualifies for a property tax break due to blindness “has permanent impairment of both eyes of the following status: central visual acuity of twenty/two hundred (20/200) or less in the better eye, with corrective glasses, or central visual acuity of more than twenty/two hundred (20/200) if there is a field defect in which the peripheral field has contracted to the extent that the widest diameter of visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than twenty (20) degrees in the better eye.”

And, as Charlestown’s ordinance states, this condition must be documented by a licensed eye physician.

ARTICLE V Tax Relief for Disabled Persons (§ 192-21 — § 192-30) 

[Adopted 1-11-1988 as Ch. 161; amended 5-13-2002 by Ord. No. 242; 1-12-2004 by Ord. No. 253]

§ 192-21 Exemption authorized. 

The Tax Assessor is hereby authorized to grant an exemption on real property situated in the Town and owned and occupied by any one or more persons who have been determined to be 100% disabled by the Social Security Administration, in accordance with the limitations and provisions herein. This article shall provide a real property tax exemption of $575 as a tax dollar credit for persons who are totally disabled pursuant to RIGL. § 44-3-15.

§ 192-22 Eligibility. 

In order to be eligible for the exemption provided for herein:
A.  The applicant must be certified by the Social Security Administration as 100% disabled.

B.  The applicant must be at least 18 years old.

C.  The applicant must be the owner/occupant of the property for which the tax exemption is intended.

D.  The applicant must have been a resident in the Town for a period of one year next prior to the filing of any application for tax exemption.

E.  It is the express purpose of this article to confine the exemption to property solely used as a single-family dwelling.

F.  Applicants for the disabled persons exemption must file an application and sworn statement each year on or before March 1st.

§ 192-23 Applications; exemptions to be on fiscal-year basis. 

A.  Application for the exemption provided for herein shall be made in the form approved by the Town Council.

B.  All applications must be fully completed by the applicants and submitted to the Tax Assessor in a timely manner on or before March 1st of each year.

C.  All exemptions will be on a fiscal-year basis in accordance with the current financial management procedures of the Town.

§ 192-24 Proof of eligibility; residency requirement. 

Applicants for tax exemption shall submit the following information:
A.  Proof of age, which may be established by birth certificate, certificate of citizenship or other means normally accepted by the Social Security Administration.

B.  Proof of ownership of the property for which the exemption is claimed, which may be established by confirmation of the Tax Assessor.

C.  "Residency," for the purpose of this article, shall mean one is legally domiciled within the Town for at least 183 days a year. The Tax Assessor may require documentation, which would become part of the Assessor's records, that would be utilized for proof of required residency. Seasonal or temporary residency shall not be sufficient.

D.  A statement from the Social Security Administration that the applicant is 100% disabled, attached to the initial application.

§ 192-27 Sworn affidavit; documentation of financial eligibility. 

In addition to meeting the various other provisions of this article, the applicant, using forms approved by the Town Council, shall provide a sworn affidavit as to his or her social security benefits and other government assistance.

§ 192-29 False statements. 

The penalty for anyone falsifying the amount of his or her income and for violating any part of this article shall result in the loss of all benefits, and the applicants' property shall be returned to the normal tax rate. The amount of tax money the applicant has saved through these benefits will be billed to the applicant, in addition to interest, at the rate being used by the Collector of Taxes on delinquent accounts at the time of discovery of the false statement or violation.

§ 192-30 Effect on Assessor's authority. 

Nothing contained herein shall abrogate or affect the authority of the Assessor under the provision of RIGL § 44-3-3, Subparagraph 16.