King County Tax Assessor John Wilson stopped by the Peter Kirk Community Center Jan. 10, to discuss recent changes to the senior citizen and disabled taxpayer exemption program for the 2020-24 tax period.
“These last four years, I’ve been very honored to serve,” Wilson said at the forum. “It has been very frustrating because there hasn’t been a week that’s gone by where I haven’t heard from some senior who said, ‘Mr. Wilson…I’m not sure I can stay in my home anymore. The taxes have gotten too high.’ And that’s why it was so imperative to me that we get something done now.”
After his opening remarks, Wilson solicited audience questions, most of which revolved around eligibility clarifications and the application process.
To qualify, homeowners must have either been born before 1958 or disabled/unable to work before 2019. They must have occupied and owned their current residence since Dec. 31, 2019, at the latest; current income must be in line with the new thresholds, which can include Social Security and other similar sources.
There are three levels of exemptions.
In the standard exemption — which is now $58,423 (Wilson said he’s pushing to get it up to $59,000) but was previously $40,000 — a homeowner with this income is not liable to excess levies, like school levies and bonds.
The partial exemption, newly sitting at $49,435 (it was previously $35,000), sees 35 percent go off a homeowner’s tax liability.
According to a flier handed out at the forum, the minimum value reduction is $50,000, with the maximum standing at $70,000.
“[An] example is 35 percent of a $200,000 parcel is $70,000, so any property valued at more than that won’t get more than $70,000,” documents state.
Like those receiving a standard exemption, homeowners eligible for a partial exemption are not subject to excess levies.
Those who fall under the $40,447 threshold are eligible for a full level of exemption. Previously, the threshold stood at $30,000.
A full exemption entails 60 percent off tax liability and a lower levy rate. Homeowners eligible for the full level are exempt from excess levies.
According to Wilson, the value of a Washington state residence freezes once the program is applied for. This means that each year after the initial approval, a homeowner will be taxed on the lesser amount of the original frozen value or where the market value currently stands (whichever is lower), according to the King County website.
Homeowners have to provide a signed application, proof of income (e.g., every page of their federal tax return or a 1099 for all income sources), proof of age or disability (e.g., driver’s license or birth certificate for seniors, or an SS award letter for those with disabilities), proof of homeownership (e.g., the home’s deed or a document confirming the time during which the property was purchased), trust documents, signatures of the applicant and a witness, status of those listed on the deed/spouses and a divorce decree if applicable.
Once a homeowner has applied for an exemption, they should receive a letter within six to eight weeks delineating whether an exemption has been approved or if more information is needed.
It takes about 30-45 days to process an application.
Wilson said that over the next year, King County intends to have roving teams set up registration sessions for more direct assistance.
“I think this will make such a significant difference for folks whether or not they can afford, frankly, to stay in their home,” Wilson said.
To receive an application for the new program in the mail, email firstname.lastname@example.org to be added to the mailing list or complete a request form at bit.ly/2tRYvwC. Call 206-296-3920 for any questions about the program.