According to Maine Revenue Services, Maine has the highest percentage of home ownership in the United States. But relatively high property taxes make home ownership more difficult. According to the Tax Foundation, Maine ranked 18th in the country in 2008 in property taxes as a percentage of home value at 1.05% and 17th in property taxes as a percentage of median income at 3.32%. But there is property tax relief in the form of a homestead exemption and the property tax and rent “circuit breaker” refund.
If you have been a resident of Maine for at least 12 months and you own a home that is your permanent residence, you qualify for the homestead exemption. Your home can be a house, condominium or mobile home. Vacation homes and second residences do not qualify for the homestead exemption. The current homestead exemption (2010) is $10,000 of the value of your home. The benefit of this exemption depends on the tax rate in your location.
To claim the homestead exemption you have to complete the application form and file it with your local tax assessor by April 1st. Applications received after April 1st are applied to the following year’s tax assessment. Once you receive the homestead exemption you don’t have to re-apply each year, unless you move.
If you are a veteran who served during a war period and are at least 62 years old, or are receiving 100% disability as a veteran, you qualify for a property tax exemption of $6,000. If you are a disabled veteran and received a grant from the U.S. Government for Specially Adapted Housing as a Paraplegic, you qualify for a $50,000 exemption. Widows, widowers, minor children and widowed parents of veterans also qualify for this exemption. To apply for the exemption you should complete the application form and file it by April 1st.
If you are legally blind, you qualify for a $4,000 property tax exemption. You should file the Blind Exemption application form and attach documentation that shows your eligibility for the benefit.
Circuit breaker refund
Under Maine’s “circuit breaker” program, residents who own or rent their home could qualify for a refund if they meet the income requirements. The requirements for 2009 refunds, based on 2008 income, were household income of up to $61,400 for a Maine resident with no spouse or dependents, and $81,850 for residents with a spouse or dependents. To qualify for the refund, if you own your home, your property taxes must have been more than 4% of your household income. If you rent, your rent payments must have been more than 20% of your household income. But seniors don’t need to meet this requirement if their income is below a certain amount. For 2009, the limits were household income of less than $13,900 if you lived alone, or less than $17,200 if you lived with a spouse or dependent.
Beginning August 1, 2010, you can apply for a refund of the property taxes that were assessed, or the rent you paid during 2009. According to Maine Revenue Services, if you filed an application for a refund last year, you should receive a new application shortly after August 1st. If you do not receive an application form or you are applying for the refund for the first time, you can download an application form, call Maine Revenue Services at 624-7894, or write to Maine Revenue Services, SHS 24, Augusta, Maine 04333-0024.
Applications, Forms and Publications – Maine Revenue Services
The Maine Homestead Exemption – Pine Tree Legal Assistance
Maine Residents Property Tax and Rent Refund Program – Maine Revenue Services
Homestead Exemption Information – Department of Assessment – City of Lewiston
Property Tax Exemptions – Maine Revenue Services
Property Taxes on Owner-Occupied Housing by State, 2004 – 2008 – The Tax Foundation
Tax Relief – Maine Revenue Services