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WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE: RECORD NUMBER OF SENIORS SIGN UP FOR PROPERTY TAX RELIEF; MANY MORE COULD

 OLYMPIA, Wash., Aug. 11 /PRNewswire/ -- A record number of low-income seniors signed up for property tax relief for 1993, but the number could double if every eligible senior participated, Washington state officials said today.
 The number of participating seniors jumped 14.7 percent to 120,415 in 1993, according to Property Tax Statistics - 1993, a research report released by the Washington State Department of Revenue. Those seniors will save $61.9 million in property taxes this year, for an average savings of $514 apiece.
 The program got a boost last year when the legislature raised maximum qualifying income levels by $8,000 to $26,000 per year per household. However, county assessors say many seniors qualified under the previous $18,000 income limit, but either weren't aware of the program or chose not to participate.
 "Many don't want to tell us how much they make," said Mason County Assessor Darryl Cleveland, who actively promotes the program through public appearances at local communities. "Others figure it's a form of charity and they have too much pride for that."
 Ironically, the seniors least likely to take the break are those who earn $10,000 or less a year, Cleveland noted.
 Under state law, seniors age 61 or older are entitled to a full exemption from excess (voter-approved) property taxes when annual household income (including spouses or co-tenants) is $26,000 or less. In addition, seniors who earn up to $18,000 annually can be exempted from part of their regular property taxes.
 What nobody knows for sure is how many seniors qualify for a break by income but who aren't applying. According to the 1990 Census, more than 63 percent of all Washington households occupied by seniors aged 65 or older earned less than $25,000 per year. That's 235,490 households, or nearly double the number now participating, without counting 61- to 64-year-olds.
 Iris Hoffner, accounting section supervisor for King County Assessor Scott Noble, said many seniors are still unaware of the program despite extensive publicity efforts, including mailings and appearances at senior centers.
 Fortunately, it's never too late to apply. Hoffner said many of the seniors who did try to qualify a few years back but earned too much income should try again now that the income limit has been raised to $26,000 per year.
 And even those who could have qualified all along can still get relief on their last three years of property taxes, she added. Applications for relief on 1994 taxes must be filed with county assessors by Dec. 31, 1993. A deferral program, which defers but does not exempt property taxes for qualifying seniors, also is available.
 /CONTACT: Mike Gowrylow of the Washington State Department of Revenue, 206-586-9167/
 -0- 8/11/93


CO: Washington State Department of Revenue ST: Washington IN: SU:

AL-SB -- SE009 -- 1798 08/11/93 15:33 EDT
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Publication:PR Newswire
Date:Aug 11, 1993
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