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State Senate Approves Expanding Veterans Tax Write Off Program
Staff Reports,
03:18PM / Sunday, July 30, 2017
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BOSTON, Mass. — The state Senate wants to give veterans the ability to "work off" more of their tax bills through community service.
The Senate on Thursday passed a bill to increase the amount veterans can work off from $1,000 to $1,500 in work-off programs. 
"Currently, senior citizens who perform volunteer services in the communities that participate in the senior work off program are eligible to receive a $1,500 reduction in their property tax bill," state Sen. Adam Hinds said in a statement.  
"My amendment aligns the amount veterans can also expect to see discounted from their property taxes for the same types of community service. It's an easy way to say thank you to veterans who served their country bravely while in active duty, who  are now volunteering their time to support their community."
The amendment was approved by a 39-0 vote. The change is based on legislation penned by state Rep. William "Smitty" Pignatelli. That bill is eyed to enhance the volunteer service tax reductions for veterans and was approved by the Joint Committee on Revenue. It is awaiting further action from the House of Representatives.
Any municipality can establish a program to allow veterans to reduce their tax bills through work. The overall bill before the Senate gives cities and towns more options to adjust property taxes to benefit seniors, deaf people, military personnel, and others.
It also gives cities and towns the ability to expand property tax deferrals for senior citizens and active military personnel, provide an option to extend the time for high-interest payments, and establishing an interest rate on deferred taxes to less than 16 percent.
Lawmakers are also looking to authorize a city or town, through local option, to extend the lower interest rate of 8 percent on deferred taxes for at least one year after the death of seniors or military personnel who were participating in a tax deferral agreement.  These clauses provide for local property tax exemptions for military service personnel and their spouses as well as low-income seniors.
In addition, the foreclosure grace period is extended from the current six-month window to a one-year window. If after one year, the deferred tax amount has not been paid, the local treasurer may petition the land court to foreclose the lien on the property.
The bill also creates two new local option real property tax exemptions for deaf persons by providing an exemption of $5,000 of taxable valuation or $437.50 of actual taxes due, whichever is greater, or; provides an exemption of $500 of the actual taxes due. The taxpayer must own and occupy the property separately or jointly or as a tenant in common and must be a legal resident of the Commonwealth.
Finally, the bill improves the application deadlines for agricultural, horticultural, or recreational land.  Currently, the reporting deadline for chapter land applications to apply to have land valued, assessed, and taxed as agricultural, forest or recreational land is Oct. 1 which burdens farmers during the harvest season with paperwork that could be done at a later date. 
The bill now moves to the state House of Representatives for consideration.
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