Burke County senior citizens ask for tax refund

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Wednesday, May 13, 2015

BURKE CO., Ga. (WRDW) -- Some Burke County seniors say they are not getting money they are owed because of a tax mix up. Now they are taking their fight to the county commission.

Frederick Houston and his wife, Zennie, moved to Burke County eight years ago. They didn't just have to get used to a new house, they also had different taxes to think about. "When we moved from California to Waynesboro we applied for a Homestead Tax exemption," Houston said.

That was back in 2007. "We couldn't get it because we made too much money, we made over $50,000 a year," Zennie said.

But that wasn't the case. A school tax exemption for seniors took effect in 2003. For the first year a $40,000 income limit was set to qualify. But after 2003, all seniors qualified for the exemption regardless of income. But now everyone knew that. "You have taken money from all of the seniors citizens and seniors have nobody to look out for them," she said.

When the new tax commissioner, Marian Jackson, took over in 2013, she realized seniors had not been getting their tax exemptions. So those seniors could apply to get back the past three years of tax refunds they didn't have to pay. According to the tax assessors office from 2011 to 2013 the majority of seniors did. "I got three years back, they kept three years so I lost about $5000," he said.

But now the Houstons, and other seniors, want their tax exemption for 2014. "This is the law we should get out money back," she said.

The county says citizens needed to apply for the 2014 exemption before April first. The tax commissioner put a notice in the paper, but the Houstons say they didn't even know about the changes until May. "They're going to hold our feet to the fire and say you didn't see the newspaper oh well then you lose," he said.

Now they are asking the commission to give them back their money, about one thousand dollars. But not just for them, for the entire community. "I just hope that something can be done about this because this is unjust for seniors," she said.

The county denied the Houston's appeal for the 2014 tax refund. The tax assessors office says hundreds more senior citizens will be granted the tax exemption for 2015.

Wednesday, May 13, 2015

BURKE CO., Ga. (WRDW) -- Senior citizens in Burke County say they've been given refunds on their school tax before and now they're saying the option is off the table this year.

There is a special called meeting for commissioners to hear the appeal from senior citizens about the issue tonight at 5 p.m.

The tax refund policy went into effect in 2003 with an income limit that should only have been in place for one year, according to the Tax Assessors Office and City Administrator Merv Waldrop.

The former Burke County Tax Commissioner made a mistake and kept the income limit on there until he left office in 2013, Burke County officials said. A lot of senior citizens in the county were therefore denied the exemption and did not apply for it as a result.

In 2013, the new tax commissioner, Marian S. Jackson, came in and realized the income limit mistake. According to the Tax Assessors Office, the new tax commissioner noticed that more people should have been getting a refund for the past 10 years.

Therefore, a refund policy was set into place for people who felt they were treated unfairly due to being denied the exemption. Senior citizens could apply to get refunded those tax dollars for the past three years. The majority of citizens who applied did receive a refund for 2011, 2012, and 2013, according to the tax assessors office.

The school tax is based on the millage rate of 13.75 and applies to the property the home is built on and one acre of land. At tonight's meeting, the elderly community is set to appeal in hopes they get approximately $1000 back for their 2014 taxes.

To get the money back, people must apply for the refund. The citizens who have applied since then will get the exemption for their 2015 taxes, according to Burke County Officials. The tax assessors office says hundreds more senior citizens are expected to get it this year.

The tax assessors office says many have appealed to get refunded for their 2014 taxes, but no one has been granted their appeal as the taxes were done correctly in 2014. The tax commissioner put the notice for the changes for 2014 taxes in the paper.

In 2003, when there was an income limit, some people didn’t qualify for the refund but they qualified after the income limit was lifted.