OPINION: Tax exemption is good news for veterans

There is good news for the nearly 500,000 veterans living in New Jersey.

As an honorably discharged veteran I asked a simple question, “What is the meaning of the $3,000 tax exemption for veterans, that is associated with, and a provision of, the recently passed legislation for the new gasoline tax increase (transportation funding)?”

To try and get some clarification, and get a consensus of opinion, concerning the veteran’s tax exemption, I contacted about a dozen state legislators, either by phone or e-mail. I received only four replies by e-mail from the following state representatives: Deputy Speaker Assemblyman John S. Wisniewski, D-19; Assemblyman Troy Singleton, D-7; Assemblyman Robert J. Karabinchak, D-18; and Raymond H. Woods, legislative aide for Staff Services at the General Assembly. Those that did answer my question generally agreed that an honorably discharged veteran can take the $3,000 as a personal deduction against their tax year 2017 and continue every year thereafter. Then the next question would be, does this special exemption apply to all veterans within the state?

Woods, representing the office of Majority Leader Louis D. Greenwald and Deputy Speaker, Assemblywoman Pamela R. Lampitt, answered the question by stating that the $3,000 tax exemption would apply to any New Jersey taxpayer who is “a veteran honorably discharged or released under honorable circumstances from active duty in the Armed Forces of the United States, a reserve component thereof, or the National Guard of New Jersey in a federal status.” Mr. Woods further mentioned that this designation of a veteran is based upon the definition as defined under New Jersey statute N.J.S.A 38A. As used in Chapter 3, Title 38A of the New Jersey Statute: (b) “veteran” means any person who has served in any branch of the armed forces of the United States for at least 90 days.

Mr. Ray Zawacki, Deputy Commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, in response to my inquiry, also agreed with Mr. Woods explanation. “As far as I can tell, the law (the $3,000 tax exemption) is open to all veterans who have had an honorable separation and a DD214 as proof of active duty.” Mr Zawacki further explained, “the restrictions that apply to Civil Service Preference do not apply here.”

This is certainly very good news for every taxpaying veteran living in New Jersey, regardless of when or where they served.

Among the other provisions of the gas tax increase law, and to off set the cost of increased gas tax, there will be a slightly reduced sales tax from 7 percent to 6.875 percent, the earned income tax credit for low income workers will get increased by 5 percent, and the amount of money excluded on retirement income to be taxed will be increased, plus taxes on transfers of estates will be eliminated by 2018.

This is the time for veterans organizations throughout the state to spread the word about the allowable veterans tax deduction, not only to their respective members, but to other fellow veterans who also served honorably.

It is disheartening, however, that many of the legislators I tried to contact by e-mail did. not even offer the courtesy of a reply, including the legislators from my own District 17. Others I tried to contact by phone weren’t available and their aides knew nothing about the veteran’s tax exemption, or offered further assistance. These were the legislators who voted for the increased gas tax bill. Very disappointing.

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