MARQUETTE - A recently enacted Michigan law provides totally disabled military veterans an exemption from property taxes on their primary residence and extends that exemption to a disabled veteran's spouse, if the veteran dies before the tax break is granted.
However, those who may want to claim the tax break for this year need to hurry.
"In order to obtain the exemption for 2013, veterans must submit appropriate documentation to their city or township assessor prior to the December Board of Review," said Marquette County Treasurer Anne Giroux. "It is suggested that if veterans believe they may be eligible, (they) contact the city or township to find out what they need to submit and what the deadline is."
Gov. Rick Snyder signed Public Act 161 - the Dannie Lee Barnes Disabled Veteran Property Tax Relief Act-the day after Veterans Day, with the provisions of the law taking effect immediately.
"Michigan's military veterans, particularly those who are disabled, have sacrificed more for us than we can ever repay," Snyder said in a news release. "They have served to protect our way of life and our freedom. This property tax break will be available to their families, will help them afford homes, and stay right here in Michigan."
A Senate Fiscal Agency analysis said, the new law "amended the General Property Tax Act to exempt from taxation the homestead of a veteran who is permanently and totally disabled, is a recipient of assistance due to disability for specially adapted housing or is individually unemployable."
The new law replaces a former exemption for the homestead of a disabled veteran who was receiving assistance for specially adapted housing.
Military veterans included under the act must be honorably discharged.
The law defines a "disabled veteran" as a person who is a Michigan resident who meets one of three criteria:
Has been determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs to be permanently and totally disabled as a result of military service and entitled to veterans' benefits at the 100 percent level.
Has a certificate from the U.S. Veterans Administration, or its successor, certifying that he or she is receiving or has received monetary assistance due to the disability for specially adapted housing.
Has been rated by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs as individually unemployable.
Under the law, if a disabled veteran who is eligible for the exemption dies before or after the exemption is granted, the tax break will continue, or remain available to, the veteran's surviving spouse, as long as he or she remains unmarried.
"Michigan has approximately 82,300 veterans with a service-connected disability, of whom an estimated 8,000 are rated as 100 percent disabled," according to a Senate Fiscal Agency analysis of the law. "The number of disabled veterans who own their home or other property that is taxed under the General Property Tax Act is unknown, as is the number of disabled veterans who are rated as individually unemployable."
The agency said if all of the eligible veterans were approved for an exemption, local unit revenue would drop across Michigan by a total of about $9.4 million each year and State Education Tax revenue to the School Aid Fund would be decreased by $2.1 million each year.
Jackie Lykins, Marquette County deputy equalization director, said she's probably talked to 20 to 30 people about the new law so far. She's only had two people come in to the office to actually file the forms.
"I think it's important for the veteran to realize that they do not have to physically attend the December Board of Review," Lykins said. "They can contact their local assessor or township hall to see if they have affidavits available. If they don't, they can always come to our office and get a form. They can complete the affidavit and attach their proof of disability and bring it to the township or city hall."
After that, their assessor will present the information and their tax values will be removed at the Board of Review meeting, Lykins said.
State Sen. Dave Hildenbrand, R-Lowell Township, sponsored the bill.
"Michigan's disabled veterans have served our state and nation valiantly and selflessly," Hildebrand said in a news release. "We owe our freedom to these individuals and should provide the tax relief necessary for them to be successful homeowners. This legislation improves the current property tax exemption by streamlining the process and guaranteeing this benefit for these veterans and their spouses."
John Pepin can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 206.