County Board Adopts Changes to Real Estate Tax Relief Program

Published on July 14, 2018

  • Board accepts Manager's recommendations

  • Changes based on Working Group recommendations

  • Extends application deadline, increases exemption asset limit

The Arlington County Board today voted unanimously to approve changes to the County Real Estate Tax Relief for the Elderly program that were recommended by the County Manager and developed by a working group. The proposed changes would extend the application timeline and change some eligibility criteria for the program, among other adjustments.

"Although in recent days there have been those in the community who advocated for the Board to allow deferrals of property taxes only, rather than exemptions, such a change would have made Arlington unique among jurisdictions in this region. For that reason, and because real estate tax deferrals are fraught with problems for people with mortgages, the Board did not choose that option," County Board Katie Cristol said.

"This vote was an endorsement of the both the substance of the proposed changes, and of the extensive, thoughtful process behind them. The working group, which brought together divergent points of view, data and personal experiences, worked diligently for more than a year to produce thoughtful recommendations on how to more effectively reach those seniors who really need this program."

The changes include extending the application deadline from August 15 to November 15; allowing for the provision of retroactive real estate tax relief of up to two years under extreme circumstances; increasing the program's exemption asset limit from $340,000 to $400,000; adjusting the asset limits annually, based on changes in the Consumer Price Index; revising the method for calculating applicants' assets, and more.

County sealThe adopted eligibility changes will decrease the tax revenue that the County will forego by an estimated net of $153,898. The County will pay about $3,200 in one-time administrative expenses to reprogram existing systems in the Department of Human Services and the Treasurer's Office. The effect of allowing applicants to adjust their assets using various deductions is not known at this time. The Board did not adopt options it had included in its June advertisement of today's public hearing, which would have limited program eligibility for properties worth more than $1 million.

Most of the changes will  take effect Jan. 1, 2019. to read the staff report and presentation on this item, visit the County website. Scroll to Item No. 55 on the agenda for the Saturday, July 14, 2018 Regular County Board Meeting.

About the Real Estate Tax Relief Working Group

The proposed changes stem from the work of the Real Estate Tax Relief Working Group, appointed by the County Manager in 2016, at the direction of the Board. The working group was charged with studying the tax relief program and developing recommendations for the Fiscal Year 2018 budget process. Members included representatives from the County's commissions on aging, disability, fiscal affairs and housing, as well as a member-at-large, and tax relief program participants. The working group presented its final report and recommendations in April, 2017.

About Real Estate Tax Relief for the elderly, permanently disabled

Virginia localities are authorized to provide Real Estate Tax Relief to homeowners aged 65 or over, as well as to permanently disabled homeowners. Arlington's program is overseen by the Department of Human Services. In 2015, 940 Arlington households were approved for tax relief under the program, resulting in $4.2 million in uncollected revenue.

The 2015 Affordable Housing Master Plan found that many low-income senior households on fixed incomes face financial stress related to increasing condominium fees and real estate taxes. The plan's implementation framework recommended that the goals and guidelines of the tax relief program be reviewed, and that income levels, asset levels and criteria for exemptions and deferrals be considered for redefinition.

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