Opinion

Examining property tax relief

Looking to save money on your 2019 property taxes? Read on to see if you qualify for property tax relief.

Taxpayers. Do you realize that when you shop in your local community, you help to lower your own property tax bill? When you spend money at local stores, restaurants, car dealerships and other businesses you help to increase the tax base. The establishment owner can stay open, grow their business and spend their profit locally. It creates a cycle of investment that all residents benefit from in a tangible way. In addition to real estate property taxes, local companies also pay business personal property tax on their commercial fixtures and equipment.

More businesses equals more taxable value equals larger tax base equals lower taxes.

Homeowners. If your Maine home is your primary residence, you may qualify for one or more partial exemptions offered by the state, but only if you apply prior to April 1 of the tax year. These exemptions do not require application each year, but please remember the completed form must be received by April 1.  If you have any questions, call your local municipal office. Exemptions available: Homestead (must have lived in your home for 12 months prior to April 1), veteran (must be age 62 unless total disability), or for blind persons. Filing deadline: April 1, 2019. The state of Maine reimburses the municipality for a portion of the revenue lost by administering these exemptions each year.

The forms are the same for every municipality in Maine and can be downloaded at the Maine Revenue Services website: www1.maine.gov/revenue/forms/property/appsformspubs.htm.

Business owners. You will soon be receiving your annual request for information on business personal property. This schedule is required under Maine State Statute Title 36, subsections 601 and 706. It is important that each business complete the form with an inclusive list of property in service on April 1, 2019. If you fail to respond, the tax assessor will estimate the value of your business personal property. Taxpayers who do not comply will, by law, lose their right to appeal. Please let the office know in writing if you have closed your business so that the office can verify and delete your account.

The Business Equipment Tax Exemption (BETE) is a 100 percent property tax exemption program for eligible business personal property placed in service after April 1, 2007, and located in a qualified business. It does not apply to property located at a retail sales facility and used primarily in a retail sales activity. To qualify, an application must be filed by April 1 of each year with the local assessor. Not sure if you qualify? Please contact us.

The forms are the same for every municipality in Maine and can be downloaded at the Maine Revenue Services website: www1.maine.gov/revenue/propertytax/propertytaxbenefits/beteapplication.pdf.

Property owners. In all communities in Maine, April 1 of each year is “Tax Situs Day,” which is the state’s way of saying that the tax assessor in your community will assess the value of your property based on how the property was situated on April 1. The good news is if you start building a new garage on April 2 (don’t forget to get a building permit) and enjoy it all year — it won’t be assessed until next year. The bad news is that if you finally tear down that old garage on April 2 (don’t forget to get a demolition permit) — you will be assessed as if it was there all year.  

Please let the office know if there has been ANY change to your property. For example, with the heavy snows we have received this year, some barns have collapsed, the assessor will not know to remove value from your account unless you inform the office. If you have questions about your property value and the information on file, it is a good idea to call and make an appointment because many municipal offices have limited hours and staffing.  

Taxpayers in the City of Caribou may contact the tax assessment office with property assessment and permit-related questions. The office can be reached at 493-3324, option 3, or via e-mail: taxassessor@cariboumaine.org. The office is staffed by two full-time employees, myself (Penny Thompson), and Tony K. Michaud. We are both certificated as Certified Maine Assessors, Code Enforcement Officers and Building Officials.

All forms referenced above can be downloaded from the City of Caribou website: www.cariboumaine.org.

Editor’s Note: Penny Thompson is Caribou’s tax assessor and building official. She can be reached at 493-5961 or pthompson@cariboumaine.org.

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