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Furthermore …

A welcome crackdown on homestead–exemption cheats

For the most part, claiming Indiana’s homestead exemption for property taxes has been on the honor system.

Now, Allen County officials are getting tough on enforcement.

Indiana property owners with more than one home understand how valuable the exemption can be. The value of a homestead is automatically reduced by half, for up to $45,000. But property owners are permitted only one such deduction – for their primary home.

Indiana sought to shore up the honor system by sending pink forms that homeowners were to sign, verifying the validity of the homestead credit. But there has been little cross-checking, particularly between counties.

County Auditor Tera Klutz has contracted with an auditing firm that specializes in taxes to compare Allen County property records with property owner databases. Red flags popped up on nearly 3,000 properties, and those owners are getting a letter instructing them to explain why or come clean. County officials plan to collect back taxes – and penalties – from owners who claimed improperly.

Though property tax caps have caused changes in the tax system, local governments generally determine how much total revenue will be collected from taxes. When some owners pay less than their fair share, everyone else pays a little more.

Enforcing the validity of homestead exemptions is a welcome move.