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DC Council Passes First Reading of Bill Nixing Property Tax for Some Seniors

by Lark Turner

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Some elderly homeowners in DC could eventually see their property taxes disappear.

Legislation introduced by Councilmember Anita Bonds, which would exempt homeowners aged 75 and older from paying property taxes, was given initial approval by the Council on Tuesday. Only those senior citizens who have lived in DC for 15 consecutive years and have an annual income of $60,000 or less would be eligible.

The measure passed unanimously on its first reading, but changes are expected to the bill before the second reading. It’s expected to cost $16 million over four years and still has a ways to go before becoming law.

Councilmember Bonds says the measure is a way to say “thank you” to DC’s longtime residents facing dramatic property tax increases. Critics contend that the measure doesn’t address renters and is unnecessary: the District currently offers a 50 percent property tax reduction to homeowners over the age of 65 with an adjusted gross income under $100,000.

See other articles related to: property taxes, anita bonds

This article originally published at http://dc.urbanturf.com/articles/blog/council_passes_bill_nixing_property_tax_for_some_seniors/7964

23 Comments

  1. William said at 2:34 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    Awful legislation. There are many ways to say “thank you” to long time residents.  How about deferring the taxes until the sale of the property? Last time I checked, these property owners still had trash pick-up, police protection, emergency medical services and access to DPR facilities.  Why the free ride?

  1. anonypants said at 3:18 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    Well this ought to be great for our under-performing schools!

  1. adam said at 4:24 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    Ridiculous.  Why in the course of saying “thank you” to these folks is it necessary to say “screw you” to the rest of us poor shlubs?

  1. Tiffany said at 4:37 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    As a 4th generation Washingtonian, I know my Grandma in Petworth will appreciate this.

    Older residents on fixed incomes on average pay little under 2K per year in property taxes for 15 years = about 25 thousand dollars.

    cost of 16 million out of 40 billion budget is peanuts. How much do we spend on schools? healthcare? billions.

    Hopefully this will allow seniors to remain in DC instead of retiring to Florida or other taxless states!

  1. mona said at 4:50 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    I don’t get this. Isn’t the point of taxes for the services used throughout the city? Do elderly and the like not use police and fire and other things. This could be done better and I think Anita Bonds has her own motivations for doing this and it isn’t to “Thank” anyone

  1. PG2SE said at 5:16 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    Bravo, Anita Bonds! It’s not like DC is a poor city. We’ve easily spent orders of magnitude more on amenities & incentives that appeal to millennials & thirty-somethings. Relatively, this really is a small amount of money to do a large amount of good.

  1. Zesty said at 6:31 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    Most of the comments opposing this are from the ridiculous self-serving Johnny come lately crowd. Not one of you bats a eye when tax subsidies in the millions are given per developer…because there’s something in it for you; you’re happy! DC Gov is not a for-profit business, it’s not the trading desk of Raymond James; it’s a government that’s purposed, among other things with ensuring the well-being of it’s most vulnerable population. You all are just upset that these old people won’t be kicked out of their homes and you’ll lose the opportunity to buy their properties on the cheap. Self-serving bunch of people….so no “free-rides”? So we shouldn’t shelter the homeless in this “vortex” because they don’t pay taxes? No free rides right?

  1. jj said at 11:00 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    I think they could compromise and make it 0 for a lower threshold and slide the scale up as income goes up. Maybe 25% at the 60K, 50% at 100K, 75% at 150K, 100% at 250, and zero at below 40—or some other reasonable spread.  Long term residents who live in houses that have appreciated in value definitely should be protected and not chased from their homes by gentrification. My parents are long term residents and their house doubled in value over the last decade, they would have to sell if the rate was 100% for them, but can manage on the 50%.

  1. Adam L said at 11:46 pm on Tuesday January 7, 2014:

    $60k per year is a lot of money for such a hefty tax break. If this is so good for people making under $60k, why limit it to seniors or long-time residents? The latter point especially may not even be constitutional.

    Want to help something to help actually poor seniors? Lower the sales tax. Exempt social security from income tax. Raise the personal exemption. Anything would be better than lowering the District’s already low property tax for a select few.

  1. Zesty said at 1:26 am on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    @Adam,
    What is unconstitutional or against the Home Rule Act about residency requirements? How is this conceptually any different from residency requirements imposed by Public Universities (which provide lowered tuition for those who have been residents for a certain period of time)?

  1. SW said at 9:58 am on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    Unless I misread, it doesn’t say that the elderly are going to stop paying taxes - thus receive a free ride. It just says they wont pay property tax. It’s not that big of a deal. You yuppies wont even notice. Anyone who comments negatively on this legislation CLEARLY doesn’t have elderly family members in the city. I have a 95 year old great aunt that owns her home in Cap Hill (that’s assessed close to a million dollars). Another 97 year old great aunt that owns a condo in Thomas Circle and a 93 year old grandmother that owns her home in Petworth. They’ve all lived here the majority of their lives. While I’ve never heard them complain specifically about property taxes, I have heard them complain about money being tight. On a fixed income for some people, even after the homestead deduction, property taxes can make or break the ability to continue living in your own home. If you feel like an elderly person that has payed property taxes for the last 15 years, being tax exempt is a free ride - go back to Virginia or Annapolis or where ever you came from… Maybe there they won’t help the seniors and you’ll have the extra officer on duty you so desperately needed.

  1. Adam L said at 12:31 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    @Zesty

    A residency requirement is different from a length-of-residency requirement. Using your example of college residency requirements, they are often limited and, generally, the length of residency is one of many factors used to determine in-state tuition.

    Using a flip scenario, imagine if the D.C. Council restricted voting rights to people who have lived in D.C. for 15 year or more. The legislation would be overturned faster than you could file the paperwork.

    Whenever the government wants to discriminate, as it does here against people who have lived in the District for less than 15 years, there is an overriding question that the court has to decide: “Does the government have a valid interest in protecting individuals who have lived here for 15 years or more?” I very much doubt the answer is yes and the law will likely be found to violate the equal protection guarantees of the U.S. Constitution.

  1. PG2SE said at 1:41 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    @Adam L:
    I imagine the government’s valid interest in this case is the same as it is w/ in-state tuition: to keep residents of that jurisdiction in that jurisdiction.

    But I’m no lawyer, so what do I know? The bigger point here is why anyone who isn’t a potential beneficiary even cares to make a big deal out of it? $4M/yr is small change in the budget. Anyone who would sue to deny granny a property tax break is a total douchebag.

  1. Zesty said at 2:09 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    @Adam,
    At U of M, you must live in MD for 1 year consecutively, prior enrollment, to get in-state tuition. If you live in MD for 6 mos, you will NOT receive in-state tuition irrespective ALL other factors. So what you’re indicating about length of residency not being a determining factor is NOT true.
    Additionally, your analogy doesn’t hold water because voting is a right granted by the Federal government not the states. Property taxes are governed by the states and NOT the Federal government.
    What the council is trying to avoid is someone living in another state until they are 64 then moving to DC and NOT having to pay property taxes.
    Also, you misunderstand the equal protection clause. Equal protection means that laws are applied equally to all persons in similar conditions and circumstances. I.e., this would violate the equal protection if the council said persons over 65 but who were white didn’t have to meet the residency requirement. This means that States can legally discriminate, as you put it, as long as it’s for everyone of the same condition. This is why progressive tax rates are constitutional.
    Honestly, I think you need a civics refresher.

  1. William said at 4:51 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    Again, I am suggesting that the taxes be paid when the property turns over.  The city would get its revenue, but it would enable these long terms residents the ability to avoid the payment burden while they are house-rich/cash-poor.

    Is there any reason this isn’t a better idea than the Bonds bill?

  1. adam said at 5:20 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    “The bigger point here is why anyone who isn’t a potential beneficiary even cares to make a big deal out of it?”

    Can I please have a special law to exempt anyone named adam from paying property taxes?  You all shouldn’t care since that’s probably a very small amount in the context of the city budget.  Sure, it’s entirely arbitrary, unfair to those who have to make up the difference simply because they don’t happen to have the same adam, has no public purpose, and is obvious political pandering for the votes of people named adam, but anyone who opposes it clearly just hates people named adam.

  1. Adam L said at 5:28 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    I didn’t write the above comment but bingo.

    If anybody actually cared about the poor and/or the elderly, they’d fix income taxes, sales taxes, etc. Woe be to those poor seniors who rent and don’t own their own expensive homes.

  1. adam said at 6:17 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    Adam L, I’m glad to see that all of the adam’s around here are in agreement that people named adam shouldn’t have to pay property taxes.

  1. PG2SE said at 6:45 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    Seriously? I mean, come on. Is there a problem in DC w/ Adams potentially losing their homes b/c of the rapid rise in DC property values over the last couple of decades? That’s the difference between an arbitrary law and one that’s targeted w/ a purpose. If that’s pandering, I guess bike lanes and dog parks and tax breaks for sports stadiums are also pandering. And, I guess, those things are also somehow not “free rides.”

  1. Zesty said at 6:47 pm on Wednesday January 8, 2014:

    @Adam(s),
    Everyone could theoretically just change their name to Adam and no one would pay property taxes…....again what you’re saying doesn’t hold up against scrutiny.

    As you are obviously unaware, there is a DC tax review commission that is studying and will make recommendations on sales tax, income tax, etc. (led by former mayor Anthony Williams). So we may very well see a bill that lowers income taxes and sales taxes across the board.

  1. James said at 12:33 pm on Thursday January 9, 2014:

    It is easy to identify the “long term residents” in my neighborhood. Then steps are generally heavily rusted if not collapsing, the paint and window trim is peeling and rotting away, and there are commonly loud, bass-dominated sounds emanating from the structure.

    We want to financially encourage that because . . .

  1. Zesty said at 5:01 pm on Thursday January 9, 2014:

    @James,
    If you car sooooo much about their collapsing steps or peeling paint; maybe you should volunteer to help paint it for your old neighbors. Also, I don’t know anyone that is 65 or older that is “commonly loud” or “bass-dominated sounds emanating from [their] structure”. You either, A. didn’t read the article, B. Have a hidden agenda

  1. James said at 9:38 am on Saturday January 11, 2014:

    @Zesty, if you haven’t noticed, children and etcetera frequently live with grandma (free rent!). As regards your proposal to help with upkeep of neighbors’ houses, we have a big enough challenge with our own structures, thanks, and Grandma’s children have their hands full with that, anyway.

    What is your agenda?

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