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Under D.C. Budget, Property Tax Exemption For Seniors Sees Tweaks

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Starting next year, D.C. residents will get tax cuts, totaling some $143 million dollars a year. But some seniors won't be getting a property tax exemption the D.C. Council had passed last year aimed at helping long-time residents stay in their homes.

Under a law authored by Council Member Anita Bonds (D-At Large), your property tax bill would read zero if you're over 70 and have owned your D.C. home for more than 20 years. But that changed in the budget the Council recently passed — the budget bill replaced the automatic tax exemption with a tax deferral.

"Why do we want to make it more complicated for our older residents?" asks Bonds. "Being exempt from paying a tax is quite different from being able to defer it and pass it on to your heir."

Bonds says many seniors won't take advantage of it. While an estimated 6,800 residents would have received the exemption, only 2,000 will take the deferral.

But the new budget also expands tax relief to senior renters, explains Jenny Reed of the D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute.

"In our research, we've actually found that senior renters are more likely to have high housing cost burdens than senior homeowners in D.C.," she says.

The tax changes go into effect January 1.

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