BUCKHANNON – Currently in Upshur County, approximately 2,000 residents have applied for the Homestead Exemption Tax Program.
But Upshur County Assessor Dustin Zickefoose wants to make sure that every person eligible for the homestead tax exemption throughout the county takes advantage of the savings it offers. Most importantly, he wants folks who haven’t signed up to do so before the Dec. 1, 2019 deadline.
Zickefoose said the Homestead Exemption Program is for eligible homeowners who are either 65 years of age or older or homeowners who are permanently disabled. He explained those eligible receive an exemption on their home’s assessment of $20,000. Zickefoose said that exemption can reduce an annual tax bill between $175 and $231, depending on the location of the property, i.e. whether it is in the city or in the county.
“We just want to make sure the word is out to everybody,” Zickefoose said. “We had a lot of people who came in this year, and we asked them if they had the Homestead Exemption.”
Zickefoose noted that while qualified homeowners need not apply every year, those who move need to let the assessor know so the Homestead Exemption moves to their new property because the exemption applies to the house the residents are living in.
“You apply one time initially, and if you don’t move, you continue to be eligible for the Homestead Exemption,” he said. “Folks who are eligible for the exemption are those who are 65 years of age or older and those homeowners who are permanently disabled.”
During this past year, Zickefoose said one resident was 72 years old and had never heard of the Homestead Exemption.
“That’s what spurred me to make sure I am getting the word out. If people qualify for this savings, we want them to be able to take advantage of it. We have a card folks need to fill out, and they have until December 1, 2019 to file for the Homestead Exemption,” he said.
The Homestead Exemption Program only applies to the resident’s primary residence, but Zickefoose said it’s a savings that’s definitely worth applying for, adding that it’s a state-run program.
“Now is a good time for folks to stop by the Upshur County Courthouse and apply for the Homestead Exemption if they have not,” Zickefoose said. “Completing the paperwork only takes about 10 minutes and just requires a photo ID such as a driver’s license or voter’s registration card.”
He said the time to apply is when you turn 64, adding that people who reach age 64 by June 30 of this year should apply between July 1 and Dec. 1 for next year, because those individuals will turn 65 before July 1, 2020.
“Folks who apply for the Homestead Exemption that are permanently disabled need to bring in their award papers,” Zickefoose said. “The Homestead Exemption is a great program.”
Some folks are unsure how the age requirement works with a married couple who are not the same age. Zickefoose said it is based on who turns 65 first.
“If a wife turns 65 before her husband, they can come in and apply,” he said. “We tell folks when the other spouse turns 65 to remember to add them to the Homestead Exemption paperwork so it is in both names.”
Zickefoose said a lot of residents of Upshur County are “snowbirds.”
“If you own property in Florida or any other state and you have a Homestead Exemption on that property, you do not qualify in West Virginia,” he said. “You can only have the exemption in only one state – it is spelled out in the state code.”
He said the same applies for husband and wife who own properties in the county.
“In a situation where a husband and wife live in separate residences, only one Homestead Exemption will apply,” Zickefoose said. “The code spells out there is only one Homestead Exemption per marriage so we can only apply that to one house.”
Zickefoose said the residence doesn’t have to be a “stick built” home to qualify for the Homestead Exemption.
“It can be a mobile home or a manufactured double-wide,” he said, adding people do not have to own the real estate, but merely need to own the dwelling.
Anyone who has questions about the Homestead Exemption may stop by the Upshur County Courthouse Assessor’s Office, which is open Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. and can be reached by calling 304-472-4650.
Zickefoose said folks who cannot make it to the Upshur County Courthouse to apply for the Homestead Exemption should call the Upshur County Assessor’s Office.
“There are folks who cannot get around, and myself or a deputy assessor can come out to their home with the paperwork and do a house call to get them signed up for the program,” Zickefoose said. “Call our office and explain your situation and we will make accommodations. I really want to make sure that the residents who are eligible get on the Homestead Exemption Program.”