Legislature mulls expanding partial exemptions for property taxes

Feb 10, 2023, 11:27 AM

real estate power property taxes...

A residential home in Seattle's Wallingford neighborhood (brewbooks via Flickr)

(brewbooks via Flickr)

One of the groups hit hardest by inflation may get more of a break on property taxes if a bill in the Legislature becomes law.

Partial property tax exemptions exist for certain groups in Washington, such as low-income seniors, veterans, and people with disabilities.

Whether a senior qualifies for tax relief and how much of a reduction they get is based on their earnings as a percentage of their county’s median income. Currently, households earning 65% of their county’s median income or less can get partial exemptions.

“A lot of times, property tax bills run right around $5,000,” said Clark County Assessor Peter Van Nortwick in testimony at the State Legislature. “And with the senior exemption program, a lot of times we’ll see those bills go down to maybe $2,000 or less.”

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Now, a bipartisan bill in the Legislature would, if passed, expand the groups of people who qualify for partial property tax exemptions.

House Bill 1355 would increase exemption categories by 5% of county median income. This means that anyone making up to 70% of their county’s median income could get a tax reduction.

Income thresholds would also be re-adjusted every three years to keep up with inflation. Right now, they are only re-adjusted every five years.

Representative Sharon Wylie (D-Vancouver), the bill’s prime sponsor, said this would mean the world to seniors on a fixed income who have been harmed by record inflation.

“It’s in everybody’s interest to be able to age in place and to not lose the homes that we have put our life’s savings into,” she said. “This is a problem that is only going to get worse.”

King County Assessor John Wilson testified in support of the bill, noting that in his home county, the qualifying income would go up to about $72,000 per year.

“I very much support efforts to take into account the devastating impact inflation is having on seniors across our state … I hear far too often from seniors who literally are in tears from fear of losing their homes simply because their property taxes went up,” Wilson said.

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Legislature mulls expanding partial exemptions for property taxes