In 1963 the State of New Jersey passed a law providing a $250 annual deduction on property taxes for veterans who served during a war or certain peacekeeping missions. If the veteran passed away, the deduction was available to his or her surviving spouse. The law was to be administered by the local tax assessor.
In the same year the state provided a property tax deduction of $250 for seniors (65 and older) whose annual income per couple was $5,000 or less (later amended to $10,000), excluding Social Security payments and government pensions.
The sad thing is that many people are not aware of these property tax deductions because the county and/or local tax assessors have not “advertised” them. Most of the tax assessors I talked to said information on the deductions is usually provided to the local VFW or other veterans organizations and seniors groups such as AARP — and they leave it up to them to pass the information on. Middle Township has a note on the back of its property tax bill under the heading, "Tax Deductions," indicating that information may be obtained from "the office of the Tax Assessor or Tax Collector."
Some of the tax assessors have been more active than others in providing information, but no one had any idea as to how many people who are eligible are actually receiving the deduction. Everyone said the information is on the state's website and, for the most part, on the municipality's website as well. And if a veteran or senior citizen comes in to the office and asks about the deduction, they give them the information.
But why would anyone come in and ask about a property tax deduction if they don't know it exists? Or go on the state's website and wander around on the chance that there may be something there about a tax deduction? And, if by chance they learned about the deduction, how many people don't have a computer to check the local or state website?
How did I find out about the deductions? When I went to pay my quarterly property taxes I jokingly asked the clerk in the Middle Township Tax Office if seniors get a discount and I was told, “No, but veterans do.” That was three years ago, and seven years after we moved to Cape May County and became eligible for the veteran’s deduction.
A neighbor who grew up in the county has been getting the deduction for five years – more than 44 years after he became eligible! Why? Because he was never informed the deduction was available.
What's really upsetting is that the state reimburses the municipalities for these deductions. So there is no excuse, monetary or otherwise, for the county's municipalities not to tell their residents about the property tax deductions. While most officials said they are "doing the best we can," few are engaged in any kind of meaningful outreach program to inform the public. I don't know how many other municipalities throughout the State of New Jersey are similarly negligent in providing this information to their residents, but it would be interesting to find out.
For more on this topic, read Eligible For A Property Tax Deduction? and Why Don't NJ Municipalities Talk About Property Tax Deductions?
Beau Weisman, Editor