Filers look for tax tips

Cottrel: Explore all possible exemptions when doing your taxes

The beginning of the New Year seemed like the perfect time to get those pesky financial ducks in a row. However, it didn’t take me long to discover that duck wrangling was not as easy as I thought.

In an effort to review our real estate taxes, I found that one of our ducks has been escaping and running free since we moved here.

First, I wanted to see if we could qualify for a Homestead Exemption. Because Clark County has a very nice website, clarkcountyauditor.org, it was easy to find the homestead exemption information.

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Qualification is based upon Line 3 of the Ohio IT1040 Forms. This line is for “total adjusted gross income.”

The word “adjusted” means that some items may be subtracted from your Federal Adjusted Gross Income on your 1040. The amount being taxed will be adjusted. For some people over 65 years of age, items like military retirement, business income, social security or other similar things may be subtracted from the total on the Ohio IT 1040.

Everyone’s situation is different, so please take a look at the Ohio income tax IT1040 for 2017 that you turned in last April. If the number on line 3 in your Ohio return for 2017 is less than $32,800, you may qualify.

As Clark County Auditor John Federer explained, he really does want people to be more aware of ways that they can reduce their tax burden. And he wants people to know that his office will help.

“I encourage people to fill out the form and give it a shot,” said Federer, who remembers his years as a banker and taking good care of customers. He wants this system to be more user friendly.

There are no places for money amounts on the form. According to Federer, his office is not interested in a person’s personal financial information. The form just asks for the “taxing district and parcel number or registration number” which can be found on the real estate tax bill. Then the State of Ohio, which does have access to tax returns, reviews the requests and replies “granted” or “denied.”

This is so much easier than I realized.

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This exemption also applies to some younger people with permanent or total disabilities. Surviving spouses of people who passed away while on Homestead Exemption should also read this to see if they qualify. There are provisions for Homestead Exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans and some surviving spouses. Please read the details to see if you might qualify.

Look it up on the website. Read the page, download and print the form, then fill out the form if it applies to you. Or you can have an application form mailed to you.

If you think you might qualify, but you find the instructions confusing, contact the Auditor’s Office at (937) 521-1862. This office is set up to answer questions. Your questions cannot be dumber than mine, trust me, and those in the office were very patient and courteous as they answered.

If you have a parent, aunt, uncle, or neighbor who is over 65 years of age, or disabled, and not computer savvy, please explain this Homestead Exemption system to them and help them find out if they can get it.

Legally paying less in taxes can make a person’s retirement budget go farther. They will bless you for this.

Please note however, the Homestead Exemption is granted for one year only and must be reapplied for each year.

Anyone approaching 65 years of age or someone with a disability needs to take a look at this to see if the homestead exemption applies to them.

Now here is the part that made me cry.

There is also a 2.5 percent Homeowner Credit for people who live in their own houses. I did not know about this until this week. I don’t know how I’ve missed it all these years.

According to the website, most people apply for this when they purchase their home. I asked the nice folks at the Auditor’s Office to check for me and found out that the application for this was not in that stack of papers we signed when we closed on our house. Uh Oh. That duck has escaped from the row.

Luckily, we can still apply for this for 2019 and also for last year, but all those years before, well, it is too late. It is frustrating to have lost this small tax break over the years but I’m glad we are getting it from now on.

So if you are living in your own house, not a rental, check to see if you are eligible for this. Don’t just assume this was done at closing.

Once again make sure that your parents, cousin, aunts and uncles, and friends are also getting this discount if they are eligible. Ask them.

Auditor Federer told me they remind people of these exemptions every year through press releases and publications, but some people, like me, still don’t get the word. I intend to make sure everyone I know double checks to make certain they are getting all the exemptions and discounts they deserve.

Duck wrangling is a lot easier if you have friends reminding you and helping to get the ducks in a row. John Wayne would be proud of us.

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