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Property tax exemptions help elderly, disabled and veterans

Elderly, disabled and veteran homeowners have an easier time staying in their Augusta-Richmond County homes thanks to a series of property tax exemptions that in most cases exceed what’s offered by the state.

Through various exemptions, plus additional exemptions for churches, schools and government-owned property, some 1,287 parcels in Augusta-Richmond County have zero tax liability or pay only garbage fees on their tax bills. Another 300 parcels show a tax liability of less than $100, according to tax data.

Augusta’s most popular exemption is available to all who live in homes they own. According to property tax data, the owners of some 17,200 of the consolidated government’s 60,000-plus properties claim the basic “homestead” exemption, which trims $5,000 from the value of a property subject to both Richmond County Board of Education and Augusta-Richmond County taxes. The standard state homestead exemption is $2,000.

None of the tax exemptions are automatic and all require a property owner to apply for them with the Tax Commissioner’s office by April 1 to get the discounts on the current year’s tax bill.

At age 62, homeowners are eligible for a state-level break in property taxes, with a $5,000 exemption against Augusta-Richmond County taxes and a $10,000 exemption for school taxes.

On a $137,000 home, the exemption trims about $200 from the school portion of a tax bill, typically the largest part, to around $900 annually.

At 65, homeowners can really cash in on their age, and some 5,950 Augusta-Richmond County seniors have qualified for the “double-and-school” exemption. Another 3,200 qualify for the “full school” exemption, which has no household income limit. Augusta-Richmond voters authorized the double-and-school exemption, which trims $10,000 from the taxable value of a home for county taxes, $4,000 from the value for any county bond assessment and exempts the owner from all school taxes at age 65.

The full school and double-and-school exemptions spare the owner of a $250,000 house what would be nearly $1,800 in school taxes.

Augusta voters also authorized in the late 1990s a break from all taxes for people who are 100 percent permanently disabled, subject to income limits. Today some 368 claim the exemption.

Veterans, similarly are 100-percent exempt if their property is valued at less than $120,000.

Totally disabled vets, some 860 in Augusta-Richmond County, and 129 unremarried, surviving spouses of veterans also claim tax breaks that significantly reduce their tax liability, often to none.

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