Big Changes Could Be In Store For This N.J. Property Tax Relief Program

TRENTON -- Seniors and citizens who benefit from New Jersey's Senior Freeze property tax relief program could receive credits against their real estate bills instead of rebates under a bill in the Legislature.

The Assembly State and Local Government Committee on Monday approved the bill, which would convert the Senior Freeze reimbursements into credits -- a change the sponsors said would cut state administrative costs and spare eligible homeowners from having to pay the full bill before receiving a reimbursement check in the following tax year.

The Senior Freeze programs is slated to help offset property tax increases for about 166,000 property owners this fiscal year. 

To be eligible for the Senior Freeze program, you must be 65 or older or receiving Social Security benefits and have lived in the state for 10 years. Other requirements, including income limits, apply.

The bill (A4608) would deliver the tax relief as a credit against homeowners' third and fourth quarter property tax bills.

"For seniors and disabled residents, in particular, who often live on a tight, fixed budget, a direct credit applied to their current year tax bill would be a welcome reprieve rather than having to pay their property taxes and wait for an eventual rebate," Assemblyman Wayne DeAngelo (D-Mercer), a bill sponsor, said in a statement.

Assemblyman Troy Singleton (D-Burlington), another sponsor, said it would save the state money by eliminating the cost of cutting and distributing checks.

Residents who don't pay taxes directly to their municipality, such as those in co-ops, would still receive rebates, but sooner, according to the bill.

The popular Homestead Benefit was already converted to a credit by Gov. Chris Christie's administration. Both programs reduce the state's sky-high property tax bills for qualifying homeowners.

The current year's budget includes slightly more than $1 billion in property tax relief through the Senior Freeze, Homestead Benefit and property tax deduction programs.

The governor's proposed spending plan for the fiscal year beginning in July includes about $20 million less, which his administration said reflects fewer homeowners qualifying and not because of any change in the programs' income limits.

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