Senior Citizen and Disabled Persons Exemption

Eligibility Requirements

Age or Disability

You must be at least 61 years of age OR disabled from gainful employment on December 31 of the qualifying year, the year prior to the property taxes being due. Proof of age or disability is required. Proof of disability can be an Award Letter from Social Security, a VA Benefits Award Letter or a Proof of Disability statement completed by your physician. The Proof of Disability Statement can also be obtained from our office.

Ownership

You must own your home for which the exemption is claimed in the year before the taxes to be exempted are due. The type of ownership must be in total (fee owner), as a life estate (including a lease for life), or by contract purchase.

Residency/Occupancy

The property must be your principal place of residence. You must occupy the home for more than 9 months in a calendar year. Your residence may qualify even if you are temporarily in a hospital, nursing home, boarding home, adult family home or home of a relative. Your residence may be rented during your stay only if the income is used to defray the facility costs.

Property used as a vacation home is not eligible.

Household Income for Whatcom County Residents

Beginning in 2020, your annual household disposable income cannot exceed $42,043 with your 2019 income to qualify for an exemption on your 2020 property taxes. For previous years (2017 – 2019) your 2016 – 2018 income cannot exceed $40,000.

Disposable Income and Allowable Deductions

Disposable Income

Disposable income includes all household income from all sources, regardless of whether the income is taxable for federal income tax purposes. Some of the most common sources of income include:

  • Wages
  • Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits
  • Military pay and benefits other than attendant-care and medical-aid payments
  • Veterans benefits other than attendant-care payments, medical-aid payments, veteran’s disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation
  • Pension receipts, distributions from retirement bonds and Keogh plans and the taxable portion of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA’s)
  • Business, Rental and Farm Income (Depreciation cannot be deducted and you may not deduct business or rental losses or use those losses to offset other income)
  • Annuity receipts. For purposes of this program, "annuity" is defined as a series of long-term payments, where long-term means a period of more than one full year from the annuity starting date.
  • Labor and Industry (L & I) and other disability payments
  • Interest and dividends
  • Capital gains, other than the gain from the sale of your residence that was reinvested in another residence within one year. Capital losses may not be deducted from income or used to offset capital gains.

Allowable Deductions from Income

There are four types of expenses that may be deducted from combined disposable income. These include non-reimbursed amounts paid for you and your spouse for:

  • Medicare insurance premiums paid under Title XVIII of the Medicare Insurance Act. (Medicare Parts B, C and D)
  • Nursing home, assisted living facility (boarding home), or adult family home costs
  • Prescription drug costs
  • In-home Care. The care received must be similar to the care provided by a nursing home. For example, therapy or nursing care received in the home, attendant care to assist with household and/or personal care tasks. Meals on Wheels (or similar service) and Life Alert (or similar service). Special furniture and equipment such as wheelchairs, hospital beds and oxygen also qualify.

How to Apply

You may bring all required documentation into our office and one of our staff will gladly assist you with filling out the application. You may also apply through the mail by completing an application and returning it along with all required documentation to our office.

For more information please contact our office at (360) 778-5050 or check out the brochure that the State of Washington Department of Revenue puts out on the program.

Late Filing and Refunds

If you feel you would have met the qualifications of the program in previous years but were unaware of the program, you may file an application for each year you would have qualified. You would need to meet the required qualifications that were set in place for each year you are applying for. You must file an application within 3 years of the date the taxes were due to receive a refund for excess taxes already paid. (Example - to receive a refund of the excess taxes paid on your 2017 property taxes you would need to file the application prior to April 30, 2020 to receive the full year’s exemption, by October 30, 2020 to receive 1/2 years exemption. Any application for the 2017 property taxes filed after October 30, 2020 would be denied a refund)

When your application and, required documentation, is filed for previous years, you must use the income from the same year as you would have if you had filed your application on time. For example, you would use 2016 income for a 2017 application to receive the exemption from the 2017 taxes.

Renewing the Exemption or Changes in Circumstances

After approval, the exemption applies in the following years. You must complete a renewal application or a Change in Status form if there are any changes that would affect the exemption. Examples:

  • The Assessor’s Office requests to verify your income (periodically required)
  • Your income changes from what was originally reported and would change the level of the exemption
  • You sell your home or move to a different residence
  • Your home is no longer your primary residence (where you live for more than 9 months of each calendar year)
  • Change in ownership
  • Marriage

Appeal Process

The County Assessor must tell you if your application is denied. You may appeal the Assessor’s decision to the County Board of Equalization. The County Board of Equalization must receive your appeal by July 1 or within 30 days of when the denial notice was mailed, whichever date is later.

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