Should spouses of disabled veterans be allowed to claim higher tax exemption?
One of the constitution amendments on the Nov. 6 ballot is a property tax exemption for spouses of certain disabled veterans.
A vote for the amendment would allow the spouse of a deceased veteran who had a 100 percent service-connected disability rating to claim a higher homestead exemption even if the exemption was not in effect at the time the veteran died.
On the other hand, a vote against the amendment would mean the spouse could not claim the higher exemption if the veteran died before it took effect.
The Constitution lists all eligible exemptions from property taxes. It exempts from most property taxes up to $75,000 of the value of a homestead. In order to qualify for the homestead exemption, the owner must both own and occupy the property. The exemption does not apply to municipal taxes, except in Orleans Parish.
The proposed amendment says that if the surviving spouse of a deceased disabled veteran occupies and remains the owner of the couple’s home, he or she can claim the higher homestead exemption whether or not the exemption was in effect at the time the veteran died.
The concern that other surviving spouses could be affected in the same way prompted the proposed amendment.
If voters approve the proposed amendment on Nov. 6, it will take effect Jan. 1, 2013, and will apply to exemptions adopted in parishes both before and after that date. In other words, parishes that already have adopted the increased homestead exemption will not be required to put the question before voters again.
As the total value of homestead exemptions in a parish rises, the total value of taxable property falls. All else being equal, higher homestead exemptions for some taxpayers normally would lead to higher millages for all other taxpayers. These higher rates would be triggered by a millage adjustment (roll-up), which effectively transfers any revenue loss from the taxing authority to taxpayers. The 2010 amendment treated the veterans’ homestead exemption differently by prohibiting any mandatory roll-up that might be warranted from it. Instead, the taxing body is required to absorb the tax loss.
This amendment is a good gesture of support for veterans and their spouses.
The impact on local taxing bodies would be minimal. In 2010, officials estimated there were approximately 2,000 homeowner/occupants in Louisiana who would be eligible for the higher exemption. The estimated statewide impact if all parishes offered the new exemption was $2 million in lost annual local revenues, less than one-tenth of 1 percent of total property taxes collected statewide.
Including the spouses of veterans who pass away before the increased homestead exemption takes effect would not change the overall estimate of 2,000 homeowner/occupants who would be eligible.
But critics say approval of this proposed amendment would result in yet another expansion of the homestead exemption and would further erode the local tax base in parishes that opt to extend the benefit.
Tell us what you think about offering exemptions for veterans and they spouses. You can send a letter to the editor to jdne...@bellsouth.net or drop by our office at 238 N. Market Street.
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