The subject of my topic this week is a lesson that you can improve the tax system in favor of New Jersey residents who pay some of the highest property taxes in U.S. bureaucracy.
I recently introduced a proposal with my colleagues, Assemblymen Ron Dancer and Wayne DeAngelo, which transforms the Senior Freeze Property Tax Rebate into a direct credit on their tax bill. For several decades, the “senior freeze” provided reimbursement checks to eligible seniors and disabled residents to help alleviate some of the financial pressures of New Jersey’s never-ending battle with property taxes.
Under my proposal, A4608, we would replace the checks with a direct credit on eligible individuals’ third- and fourth-quarter tax bill. The new approach would be direct and predictable. The current program, while popular, comes with a hitch.
It can be a burden for many taxpayers that are eligible for the senior freeze program to pay their taxes and wait for a reimbursement on the back end. This way, the credit is applied directly to their property tax bill. We think this will help our seniors to be able to stay in their homes, without the aforementioned burden, and have the rebate be effective in achieving that goal.
By administering this rebate program with this suggested approach, the home property tax credit program not only will deliver savings to eligible senior and disabled residents in their current tax year, but it will also save taxpayer dollars by cutting administrative costs to the states. For example, the cost and time to mail those checks disappear. Given the hefty burden that property taxes pose, real-time relief is what we need to be striving for.
In the interest of fairness, we would provide a “good cause” extension for an applicant who provides sufficient proof that they could not meet the deadline.This might include illness or hospitalization (verified by a doctor’s certification) or proof that they made a good-faith effort in meeting the target date. Some homeowners pay property taxes indirectly because they live in a cooperative, mutual housing corporation or continuing care retirement community. These individuals would still receive a rebate check.
This ideal would essentially help an estimated 160,000 New Jersey residents, mostly seniors and disabled, who pay property taxes while reducing overall state administrative costs. It’s a “common sense” bill that should appeal to all. That’s why it recently passed unanimously in the Assembly.
We await the governor’s approval on this bill, which has gained some urgency. He has indicated that he will place a hold on a planned expansion of the program that had intended to keep pace with inflation. We live with the uncomfortable truth of our residents paying the highest property taxes in the land. This “common sense” bill is a move in the right direction because it eases the pain of waiting for a reimbursement, and it reduces the administrative costs that all taxpayers subsidize. That’s my take, what’s yours?