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Frank Gray

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Auditor warns of homestead deadline

Klutz

Tera Klutz, the Allen County auditor, wishes people would read their mail, especially the pink fliers her office has been sending.

If they don’t, it could create monumental headaches come next year.

It all has to do with the homestead exemption, something that virtually every homeowner has heard of.

When you buy a house, you can apply for the exemption, which gives you a big, fat break on your property taxes. The catch is, you are only allowed to have the exemption on one home.

In 2010, in an effort to keep people from double dipping, the legislature passed a law that requires all homeowners to verify their exemption. It involves filling out a form that includes your name, address, part of your Social Security number and driver’s license number.

You can do it online at the county auditor’s website. If you try to claim the tax break on more than one property, you’ll get found out.

Forms asking people to verify their homestead exemptions were sent out in 2010, 2011 and again this year. But so far, 40,000 homeowners in Allen County alone still haven’t responded.

Why?

Perhaps people just don’t read their mail, or, when they get a note regarding their homestead exemption, they disregard it because they know they have the exemption and that it lasts forever.

That’s what I thought – until a neighbor called to warn us that if we didn’t act on it by the end of the year our property taxes would skyrocket.

It sounded like nonsense to me, but when I contacted the auditor’s office I found out it was true. I was one of the 40 percent of homeowners in the county who hadn’t verified my exemption, and if I didn’t do that by the end of the year my property taxes would double.

Don’t feel bad if you haven’t done it yet. It’s like that all over the state, according to Klutz.

Klutz is mounting a push in Allen County to get people to verify their exemptions (you can do it online at allencounty.us/auditors-office-home).

Klutz’s concern is twofold. When the county sets its tax rate, it determines the value of all the properties in the county, minus whatever exemptions the properties have. If 40 percent of the homeowners in the county haven’t verified their homestead exemptions, it will appear that the taxable value of all the properties is much higher than it is.

When tax bills come out next spring, if people see their taxes doubling, you can be sure they’ll descend on the auditor’s office in droves to protest.

Klutz says people who don’t act in time will get one last chance that spring to verify their exemptions and have their taxes reduced. If that happens with too many people the county will collect a lot less in property taxes than expected and won’t have enough money to fund the budgets of county agencies.

I went online to verify my exemption. It took about five minutes, if that, a lot faster than running to the auditor’s office in a panic next spring.

The effort is worth your while.

Frank Gray reflects on his and others’ experiences in columns published Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. He can be reached by phone at 461-8376, by fax at 461-8893, or by email at fgray@jg.net. You can also follow him at twitter.com (@FrankGrayJG).

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