Legislation will provide savings to local residents for another three years
Governor Charlie Baker has signed legislation to extend the Town of Reading’s popular means-tested senior property tax exemption program for another three years.
Filed by House Minority Leader Bradley H. Jones, Jr. (R-North Reading), State Representative Richard M. Haggerty (D-Woburn) and State Senator Jason Lewis (D-Winchester) after a vote of approval at the November 17 Town Meeting, House Bill 5405 was signed into law on January 5 as Chapter 412 of the Acts of 2022.
Established in 2017 following the passage of Chapter 343 of the Acts of 2016, the Reading senior property tax exemption program offers financial relief to qualifying residents who are 65 and older and mirrors the eligibility guidelines of the Massachusetts Senior Circuit Breaker tax credit. The original program ran on a three-year trial basis from 2017-2020 and was reauthorized for a three-year extension under Chapter 50 of the Acts of 2020. With the passage of Chapter 412, the program will continue to be offered through June 30, 2026.
“Rising property taxes have created significant financial challenges for many elderly residents living on fixed incomes,” said Representative Jones. “The tax relief provided under Reading’s senior property tax exemption program has helped to address this problem by allowing many older residents to continue to remain in the community where they grew up and raised their families. I thank Governor Baker for recognizing just how critical this tax relief option is for Reading’s seniors.”
“I am thrilled to be able to deliver this legislation for Reading seniors, so they can continue to access this important financial relief,” said Representative Haggerty. “With the increased fuel costs, for many, these are difficult times, especially for our increasingly vulnerable senior population. The reauthorization of this bipartisan measure provides much-needed support for our seniors and helps them continue to afford to live in their homes.”
“I’m very pleased that we are able to extend Reading’s successful low-income senior property tax relief program for another three years,” said Senator Lewis. “This tax relief will help seniors struggling with the financial burden of rising property taxes who might otherwise be forced to leave Reading.”
Under the original 2016 legislation, the Reading Select Board set the amount of the exemption on an annual basis, within a range of 50% to 200% of the Senior Circuit Breaker tax credit. Beginning with the fourth year of the program, the annual exemption was set at a flat rate of 150% of the Senior Circuit Breaker. Under Chapter 412, the Reading Select Board will once again set the rate annually, this time at between 100% and 150% of the Senior Circuit Breaker.
Chapter 412 retains the same eligibility requirements Reading has used since the program’s inception. Applicants must be a property owner who qualifies for the Senior Circuit Breaker program based on their previous year’s income. They must be 65 or older at the close of the previous year, although the second person on a joint application can be 60 or older. In addition, applicants must own and occupy a residence with an assessed value that is below the threshold set by the Senior Circuit Breaker tax credit, while all individual applicants, and at least one applicant filing jointly, must also be a homeowner in Reading for a minimum of 10 consecutive years to qualify.
Chapter 412 also requires individuals and couples seeking a tax exemption to file an application annually. The Board of Assessors can deny an application if it determines an applicant has excessive assets.