Real Estate Tax Exemption for Disabled Veterans

By Stephen S. Werner, Esq.

Recently, Scaringi Law was able to secure a refund of multiple years’ worth of property taxes on behalf of a Lancaster County tax payer who had unnecessarily paid in several years’ worth of taxes to the school district and the county, despite being entitled to an exemption because she is the surviving spouse of a disabled veteran.

The property tax exemption program provides real estate tax exemption for any honorably discharged veteran who is 100 percent disabled (or a surviving spouse), a resident of the Commonwealth, and has a financial need. Criteria for eligibility is determined by looking at whether the veteran had served and been honorably discharged, and served during established war service dates (DOC) as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Certain decorations can also be used to establish wartime service, such as the Armed Forces Expeditionary Medal or Navy Expeditionary Medal. The veteran must have a total or 100 percent service-connected disability rating by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs, or as the result of military service the veteran is blind or paraplegic or has sustained the loss of two or more limbs. And, of course, the veteran must be a resident of the Commonwealth, must occupy the real estate as his/her principal dwelling, and the dwelling is owned solely by the veteran or as an estate in the entirety.

The veteran must prove financial need according to the criteria established by the State Veterans Commission whenever annual income exceeds $88,607 (effective Jan. 1, 2017); but when annual income is $88,607 or less, the veteran is presumed to have the need for the exemption.

The legal basis is in the Pennsylvania Constitution itself, Article VIII, Section 2(c), and in statute Title 51 Chapter 89. Procedures for the exemption are in Title 43 Chapter 5.

In order to apply, the veteran should contact the County Veterans Affairs Director in the county in which the veteran resides. Financial need is established by looking at gross annual income to see whether it exceeds $88,607, and if it exceeds that amount, household expenses will be taken into consideration. Once the exemption is established, Veterans Affairs certifies a “financial need” for the Disabled Veterans Tax Exemption, and the County Board for the Assessment and Revision of Taxes will be notified to grant the tax exemption. If the tax authorities are not notified properly, the tax payer has three years to request a refund of taxes that have already been paid in, by making a written claim for the refund directly to the county.

To have your taxes professionally prepared call us at 717 775 7195.

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