Some Hoosier homeowners face an unwanted surprise when they receive property tax bills or new escrow statements from their lender next year if they don’t take action within the next 11 days.
Fortunately for Allen County homeowners, county Auditor Tera Klutz and her staff have made it easier to determine whether you are affected and, if so, to do what’s needed.
Changes in property taxes over the years have increased the value of having a homestead deduction for your primary residence. Though the homestead status of your property can affect property taxes in several ways, the homestead deduction basically reduces the assessed value of your house by $45,000 for homes worth $75,000 or more. For those worth less, the value drops 60 percent.
Hoosiers with second homes – which are not entitled to the homestead deduction – saw their tax bills on non-homestead properties skyrocket. With the higher value of the homestead deduction comes higher temptation to – illegally – declare more than one residence as a homestead.
So county officials across Indiana are required to verify with Hoosiers that the property they claim as a homestead truly is their only primary residence. Those addresses are entered into a statewide database that will allow county officials to verify homeowners are claiming the exemption for only one Indiana property.
Beginning in 2010, homeowners received pink cards informing them of the need to verify their homestead status. By last week, owners of about 80,000 of Allen County’s 97,000 homestead properties had verified that status, leaving fewer than 20 percent still needing to file the paperwork, Klutz said.
Klutz emphasized that homeowners need to file the verification just once. Many did so in 2010, soon after receiving the card, and may not remember whether they verified their homestead.
The auditor’s office has made it fairly simple to determine whether you still need to file the verification. (See accompanying box for the website.)
The website lists homes that still need to be verified. It is searchable both by name and address and also lists all homeowners alphabetically. It also has information on how to complete the form and submit it to the auditor’s office online.
A variety of reasons could cause a homeowner who qualifies for the homestead deduction to appear on the list. Many homeowners pay property taxes through their lender’s escrow service and may ignore any property tax information sent to their home. People who bought their home recently may have not received the notification. The pink card could have been lost in other mail or mistaken as junk mail.
Whatever the reason, homeowners who do not verify their homestead by Dec. 31 could lose the exemption, costing a typical Fort Wayne homeowner about $1,000 in higher property taxes, Klutz said.
Verifying your eligibility for the homestead property tax break may seem inconvenient for some, but it is a step more than 80 percent of county homeowners have already taken, and state officials are right to enforce the single-homestead rule.