Property Tax Abatement For Community Service

JULY 2000 - Time To Take Another Look - Members, age 60 or over, may want to explore whether their town may be
willing to establish a property tax abatement program that allows them
to perform volunteer service in exchange for a break in their property
taxes. While the concept is not new, there may be renewed interest
among local officials in the subject because of a provision contained
in the state budget passed at the end of last year.

"A
couple of years ago, we reported on towns where retirees volunteered
their services and had their property tax bill reduced by up to $500,"
according to Legislative Chairman Bill Hill. "Unfortunately, questions
arose, including whether the property tax break should be considered
income subject to state taxes and unemployment insurance or whether the
volunteers could also receive any other tax abatement they’re entitled
to.

"Consequently, the concept lost
its appeal. What this law does is not only authorize any town, if it so
chooses, to set up a property tax abatement program, but also answers
these questions."

Under the
abatement program, homeowners, 60 or over, can reduce their annual tax
bill by performing volunteer work for their city or town. They will
receive a reduction at a rate, equal to the minimum hourly wage, up to
a maximum of $500 in a given tax year.

Moreover,
the tax break is not considered income for purposes of state income
tax, unemployment insurance or workers’ compensation. Homeowners would
still be entitled to any other tax abatement for which they qualify.

For
a town, the board of selectmen can establish the program. The mayor,
with the approval of the city council, can do it in a city.

Since
it is a permanent part of the state law (Section 5K, Chapter 59), it
can be done at any time. "Hopefully, with this new law, the program
will be more attractive to local officials and they’ll take another
look at it," comments Hill.

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