Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn) in Olympia. Courtesy photo

Sen. Phil Fortunato (R-Auburn) in Olympia. Courtesy photo

Fortunato introduces three bills to help seniors qualify for property tax exemptions

One bill, if passed, would allow seniors at least 75 years old to not pay property taxes at all.

CORRECTION: In an earlier version of this article, it was reported that under current law, seniors and people on disability can apply for property tax reductions if they make a combined income of $40,000 or less. This is inaccurate, as the income qualifications vary by county — in King County, seniors and those on disability can apply for property tax exemptions if they make a combined income of $58,423.

Under a new bill introduced to the Washington state Legislature, seniors aged 75 or older won’t have to pay property taxes.

Senate Bill 5289, sponsored by Legislative District 31 Sen. Phil Fortunato, was introduced Jan. 19 as one of three bills aimed at helping seniors and those with disabilities.

“The ‘age wave’ is here and its effects are going to be significant,” Fortunato said in a Jan. 21 press release. “Seniors have worked all their lives and saved for retirement, only to be hit with property and other tax increases that severely hurt when on a fixed income. I believe that at some point in time you have paid enough property taxes and under this legislation, that time is your 75th birthday.”

According to the bill, “all real property owned by persons 75 years of age or older is exempt from state and local property tax, regardless of combined household income.” Additionally, the bill would allow a couple to claim exemption so long as one of them is 75 years old or older.

The bill, if passed, would affect approximately 6 percent of Enumclaw residents, according to 2018 stats collected by Data U.S.A.

Another bill would make it easier for seniors and the disabled to be eligible for property tax reduction programs.

Under current state law, senior couples and people on disability can apply for property tax reduction if they make less than a certain amount of combined income, based on their county of residence (many counties are around $40,000); Senate Bill 5290 would make it so that couples can apply for property tax reduction if only one person stays underneath that income limit.

“A single person making $40,000 a year after deductions may be able to live on that, but a couple cannot,” Fortunato said. “This means that a couple could be eligible for the deduction if one of their incomes is $40,000 or less.

The final bill, SB 5305, would allow applicants to deduct Medicare supplemental insurance premiums from income calculations that allow seniors and those on disability to apply for property tax reduction programs.

This bill has bipartisan support with six Democrats signing on and an additional Republican.

“Seniors deserve every bit of help the state can provide to make their later years comfortable,” added Fortunato. “Property values are rising, the cost of everything is going up, and the state’s tax policies aren’t making it easier to live in this state. I’m hoping at least one of these proposals will pass so that seniors and disabled residents can stay in their homes, hopefully easing their financial burdens.”

All three bills have been referred to the Senate’s Ways and Means committee and are awaiting public hearings.

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