Pa. bill suggests forgiving seniors’ back taxes

      (AP file Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    (AP file Photo/Charles Dharapak)

    Senior citizens’ incomes stagnate while property values rise during the decades they often spend in their homes. 

    Senior citizens could be forgiven back taxes if they’re over the age of 75 under a measure introduced by a Pennsylvania lawmaker.

    State Rep. Mark Painter, D-Montgomery, introduced a bill calling for counties and municipalities to wait five years to take or sell tax-delinquent property if a sole homeowner 65 years old or joint homeowners have a combined age of at least 130 years, according to the bill memo. Painter also is proposing completely forgiving taxes owed on property owned by people older than 75 years old, or joint homeowners 150 years or older.

    Local Government Commission Executive Director Michael Gasbarre said Pennsylvania law already allows senior citizen forgiveness for delinquencies – but only equivalent to the annual increase in property taxes, not the entire amount, as suggested by House Bill 2435.

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    Gasbarre said similar real estate tax delinquency deferral or forgivenesses don’t exist for veterans or other populations in Pennsylvania.

    Painter reasons that property values increase over the decades senior citizens often live in their homes – even absent any rate or levy increases implemented by local governments – and that becomes increasingly harder after they retire and start living on a fixed income. Any unforeseen financial hardships compound this scenario, Painter’s memo states.

    To qualify, seniors would have to provide proof of income and homeowner’s insurance.

    Their tax debt also wouldn’t disappear. Instead, it would remain as a lien to be paid first if the property is sold, or by the person’s estate if they die while it’s waived or deferred and not yet paid.

    The legislation was referred to the House Local Government Committee.

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