Towns consider increasing disabled veterans tax relief

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(Host) Qualified disabled veterans have long been entitled to a reduction in their property taxes in Vermont.

Now, as VPR’s Steve Zind reports, towns are considering increasing the amount of tax relief disabled veterans can receive.

(Zind) For years, the state has offered property tax breaks to some veterans. At one time anyone who served in the Civil and Spanish American Wars qualified for a tax break.

More recently the state has required towns to deduct $10,000 from the assessed value of the homes of some disabled veterans in order to reduce their property taxes. How much money is saved by the reduction in the assessment, depends on the local tax rate.

Only veterans with at least a 50% disability as a result of their service qualify for the program. Their surviving spouses are also eligible.

According to Clayton Clark of the Vermont office of Veteran’s Affairs, every state offers some form of tax benefits to certain veterans.

(Clark) "Every state has developed their own veteran’s service culture. Most states seem to have some type of exemption. So of them are fairly robust that exempt the full property tax amount. I think that we’re in the happy medium where we don’t provide the biggest exemption but we do provide something."

(Zind) In recent years the legislature gave towns the option of increasing the tax abatement from $10,000 of the assessed value to $20,000. To date about 1/3 of the towns in Vermont have approved the higher amount.

Now, as a result of a bill passed last session towns can choose to increase the deduction to $40,000. Voters must approve the increase. Recently the Swanton Selectboard decided unanimously to put the idea to voters at March town meeting. Richard Thompson is Swanton Town Administrator.

(Thompson) "They wholeheartedly and unequivocally supported it and I think most people think it’s the right thing to do for our veterans."

(Zind) More towns are expected to follow Swanton’s lead between now and town meeting day.

According to the state department of Veterans Affairs fewer than 1900 disabled veterans made use of the property tax abatement program in 2005. The total cost to the towns was $615,000 dollars.

For Vermont Public Radio, I’m Steve Zind.

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