Property owners who received a homestead/farmstead application after Jan. 1 should pick up that application from your pile of unopened mail, fill it out, and send it for a possible tax cut.
School districts in the state have mailed applications to persons listed as property owners who have not been previously approved for the Act 1 tax abatement program.
The deadline to fill out and return applications is March 1.
Now in its third year, the homestead/farmstead act provides tax relief for a property owner’s primary residence through state money from gambling revenue.
Property owners who previously qualified do not need to reapply and were not sent an application.
Eligible property owners in the Corry Area School District benefited from more than $500,000 in state gaming revenue the past two years. In 2008, eligible property owners received a $171 tax break on their real-estate taxes. In 2009, eligible district property owners received a $164 tax cut.
Scott Maas, chief assessor for Erie County, said 23,000 applications have been mailed out countywide this year to possible qualifying taxpayers.
“Every year in December, we send out applications to everyone we think possibly could be eligible,” Maas said. “We send an application to anyone we don’t have in our system.”
But the public is responsible to let their respective county know if they could be eligible for the tax break by filling out and returning the applications, Maas said.
Also, anyone who has bought a house recently, sold a house recently or changed residence might not be on the current mailing list but could qualify.
In Erie County, those people should call the Erie County Assessment Office at 451-6225 to request an application.
The same requirement applies for property owners in Warren and Crawford counties.
Crawford County Chief Assessor Joe Galbo said that, as of Jan. 1, the county’s school districts applications were mailed to individuals listed as owners of properties who were not enrolled in the homestead/farmstead act.
“Individuals who have purchased properties since then, and all others that have acquired new properties for use as their primary residence that are not currently enrolled in the homestead program, should apply in person at the Crawford County Assessment Office, as no further applications are being mailed,” Galbo said.
The Crawford County Assessment Office is located in the Crawford County Courthouse, 903 Diamond Square, Meadville.
Galbo said anyone who wants to apply for the farmstead exclusion must also apply in person with documentation stating they are trying to generate agricultural income on the parcel where their primary residence is located.
In the past, most individuals seeking farmstead exclusion have produced Internal Revenue Service Schedule F as proof, Galbo said. The forms will be reviewed by the assessment office staff but not retained, guaranteeing confidentiality.
Crawford County Commissioners have determined that starting this year, all parcels currently enrolled in and receiving the farmstead exclusion must be examined every five years. The first review will run until March 1.
“The county apologizes for any inconvenience,” Galbo said. “However, even if a property was approved only last year for farmstead, you must (before March 1) come to the assessment office and verify that you are either attempting to or are generating agricultural income on your property,” Galbo said.
Mike Andrus, business manager for the Corry Area School district, said if school districts choose to, they may begin the application process “from scratch” every five years.