Monday, March 11, 2013

More Than 300 County Residents to Receive "Notice of Adjustment of Homestead" from MDOR

More than 300 Winston County residents may receive an unpleasant surprise in the mail from the Mississippi Department of Revenue (MDOR) in the next few days. 

Last Fall, MDOR said that thousands of Mississippi residents had not been paying the correct amount of property taxes due to errors or inaccuracies in their Homestead Exemption applications. A change in the MDOR software and computer programs in 2012 brought these potential errors to light. In some cases, errors were typographical mistakes made at the time of the initial filing of the application, such as simply checking the wrong box on the form. But in many of these cases, changes in a resident’s status and eligibility were not updated over the years.

Every county in the state was affected including Winston County and local staff in the Winston County Tax Assessor’s Office have worked to correct and update information on as many as 2600 applications.

Last week, the Winston County Chancery Clerk received notification that more than 300 Winston County residences will be receiving “notice of adjustment in Homestead”. These notices must be forwarded through the Chancery Clerk’s Office and were apparently not on the previous list provided by MDOR.

Some reasons stated for the adjustments are: “valid application not on file; Applicant or Spouse did not meet income tax requirements: or Applicant is receiving Homestead on two parcels.”

Winston County Chancery Clerk Julie Cunningham indicates that there are a multitude of reasons for the invalidation of these Homestead Exemption applications. Some invalidations may be appropriate but others seem questionable and in those cases, Cunningham encourages the property owner to appeal to the County Board of Supervisors.

With the use of the new computer system, Homestead Exemption applications are cross checked against death records, state income tax records, divorce decrees and Homestead Exemption applications in other counties. When a discrepancy is noted, that application is flagged.

Some of the more common situations that may have flagged an exemption application for notice are:

· If a property owner is delinquent in state income taxes, the Homestead Exemption will be denied until those taxes are current. An appeal under this situation would likely be unsuccessful.

· If a property owner has a Homestead Exemption filed in more than one county, one or both exemptions may be invalidated.

· If a Homestead Exemption application is on file for a property in which the sole owner of record is deceased or the property ownership on the application has not been updated to reflect the current owners. This property is not eligible for Homestead Exemption.

· A change in marital status such as divorce has taken place but the Homestead Exemption application does not reflect this change.

· A typographical error such as simply checking the wrong box, misspelling, wrong identification numbers or Social Security numbers can also invalidate an application.

And in one of the most confusing situations that seems to conflict with historical practice, some properties in which the death of one of two owners having right of survivorship (spouses) has occurred, and the death was the primary owner (usually the husband), the Homestead Exemption application has been invalidated. Historically the spouse has not been required to re-file a Homestead Exemption application as an owner of the property.

The Winston County Chancery Clerk and Larry Woodward, Tax Assessor both encourage property owners who receive these notices and who feel that they have a legitimate right to Homestead Exemption, file an appeal with the Winston County Board of Supervisors which will be forwarded to the Department of Revenue. The property owner will need a copy of their Notice of Adjustment and a copy of their Homestead Exemption application which is available in the Tax Assessor’s Office and/or the Chancery Clerk’s Office. Either office will be available to explain the process and to aid you in any way they can.

Woodward encourages anyone who has had a change in marital status, or who has lost a spouse in recent years to check their existing Homestead Application and/or to re-file to prevent any problems with their 2013 application. Property owners have until April 1st to file for 2013 but due to a holiday, March 28 is the last day to file this year.

Here is a list of the most common situations that will require you to update an existing Homestead Exemption application:

You turned 65 years old during the previous calendar year.

· You changed your marital status – got married or divorced.

· Your spouse passed away during the previous calendar year.

· You became disabled during the previous calendar year.

· You moved during the previous year.

· You built a new house during the previous year.

· You bought or sold land in Winston County during the previous year.

· You have had any change to the deed of your property during the previous year – this includes changes such as life estates.

If you are uncertain of the status of your Homestead exemption application or if you have further questions, you are asked to call the Tax Assessor’s office at 662 – 773 – 3694 for more information.

W. McCully