Morgan issuing tax refunds
$100,900 going to some property owners who didn't receive homestead exemptions
By Sheryl Marsh
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An attorney general's opinion on homestead exemptions that canceled one issued 27 years ago is resulting in property tax refunds for more than 1,000 Morgan County taxpayers.
Revenue Commissioner Amanda Scott said her office will disburse $100,900 in tax refunds for 1,563 property owners. The money is from the 2006 tax year.
Gov. Bob Riley announced in October that the state would refund property taxes to property owners who did not receive homestead exemptions in compliance with an opinion from Attorney General Troy King.
A 1979 opinion required revenue commissioners to credit homestead exemptions based on property owners' ownership interest in property, according to reports.
King set aside the old opinion and replaced it with one stating that exemptions are no longer based on two owners of property.
The new opinion states that property owned by a person who meets criteria to claim a homestead exemption or the principal residence exemption shall receive the full exemption. It does not matter if the person is a co-owner or sole owner.
All counties are required to issue refunds dating to 2004 to comply with the new opinion.
Scott said her office started calculating refunds just days after the opinion was released.
"Anytime the law can be interpreted to benefit taxpayers I will always support that and comply," Scott said. "I am glad to be able to issue refunds to Morgan County property owners who are eligible."
Scott said the average refund check will be between $100 and $150 and the highest refund could be $800.
Once her office completes the 2006 refunds, Scott said employees will begin examining property records for refunds from the 2004 and 2005 tax years.
The 2004 refunds will go to 1,267 taxpayers and the estimated amount is $68,148; and 1,353 residents will receive refunds totalling $73,717 for the 2005 tax year, Scott said.
Limestone County never gave the partial exemptions, so there are no refunds, said Brian Patterson, revenue commissioner.
The office of Lawrence County Revenue Commissioner Tommy Praytor said his county also did not give partial exemptions and issued only one refund of $235 for the 2005 tax year.
Alabama Attorney General Troy King's opinion gives this statutory criteria for homestead exemptions:
Residents who are under 65 are exempt from the first $4,000 of assessed value for state property taxes.
Residents 65 or older, disabled or blind are exempt from a portion of the state taxes. This exemption does not include county or municipal millages.
Residents 65 or older and earning less than $12,000, or those who are totally disabled or blind, are exempt from the first $5,000 of assessed value for county property taxes and any levied school taxes.
The law exempts the principal residence and 160 acres of adjacent property of a person who is totally disabled or who is 65 or older and has a taxable income of $7,500 or less.
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