Program offers discount on taxes

Published 8:58 am Wednesday, February 9, 2011

COURTLAND—Virginia Edmonds is counting on a lower property tax bill for 2011.

The 81-year-old, who has owned a home in Ivor for 30 years and lives on a $781 month in Social Security, hopes to make it happen through the Southampton County Real Estate Tax Relief Program. For folks like Edmonds, it provides discounts on property taxes from 10 to 90 percent, said County Commissioner of Revenue Amy Carr.

“I can’t pay that amount of money,” Edmonds said about her $400 annual tax bill. “It was too much. I’m a fixed-income lady, and I don’t have no retirement.”

A bus driver for Southampton County Public Schools for 33 years, Edmonds is among nearly 200 who have requested applications for this year’s program, Carr said. Similar programs are available in Franklin and Isle of Wight County.

There are currently 152 property owners enrolled in Southampton County’s three-year-old tax relief program, which experienced a 25 percent increase in enrollment in 2010. Carr expects an equal increase this year.

“That’s based on applications requested,” she said.

Carr attributes the increase to more property owners learning about the program.

“A lot of elderly are on fixed incomes and interested in doing anything they can,” she said.

To qualify, property owners must be 65 or older, or permanently and totally disabled with a gross income under $30,000. Applicants’ net financial worth, excluding their home, cannot exceed $80,000. The discount is applied to the home and the acre it sits on. The owner must live in the home.

An elderly or handicapped person with income of less than $10,000 and net worth of less than $16,000 may be exempted from paying 90 percent of his real estate taxes, said County Administrator Mike Johnson. On the other end of the scale, an elderly or handicapped person with income of $25,001 and a net worth of $64,001 would be exempt from paying 10 percent.

State law gives cities and counties the option to adopt an ordinance allowing for real property tax relief for elderly and disabled persons, Johnson said. Relief may be in the form of either deferral or exemption of taxes.

Currently, 86 of the 95 counties and 38 cities in Virginia offer this program.

Up until 2006, Southampton County’s ordinance provided only deferral of taxes, Johnson said. It was amended in 2006 to provide for exemptions for qualified property owners.

“Our Board (of Supervisors) concluded that persons that qualify are deemed to be bearing an extraordinary real estate burden in relation to their income and financial worth and adopted this ordinance as a means of providing them some relief,” Johnson said.

The county last year received $63,738 less in revenue in property taxes due to the program, Carr said.

The overall financial impact is equivalent to less than a half cent of the real estate tax rate, Johnson said.

The deadline to apply is March 1.

Applications can be obtained from the Southampton County Commissioner of Revenue. For more information, call 653-3030, ext. 3309.