Q. I read Paul Mulshine’s column last week and was curious about a statement he made saying the benefits are lagging at least two years behind the collection of the income tax that funds them. Which got me wondering: If I move out of New Jersey in 2018, how will I get the rebates for 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018? Or does the money just go into a black hole in Trenton?
— Perplexed taxpayer
A. Oh, you and tons of other taxpayers don’t like how the Homestead rules have changed.
Let’s start with some details.
The Homestead Benefit Program essentially offers a rebate of a portion of property taxes to qualifying New Jersey property owners who are New Jersey residents, said Michael Maye, a certified financial planner and certified public accountant with MJM Financial in Gillette.
He said the program has evolved over the years. It started as a program for which most homeowners qualified and they would receive a physical check, to today, when those who qualify receive a credit or offset to their property tax bill.
You’re correct that there has been a lag of several years to receive benefit.
For example, the 2014 Homestead rebate was just applied to qualifying individuals’ May 2017 property tax bills, Maye said.
“Individuals who qualified for the 2014 Homestead rebate but no longer owned their homes are supposed to receive a check or direct deposit in July 2017,” Maye said.
That’s a difference from what happened in 2012, when homeowners who sold their homes would lose out on the future credits to property tax bills. Once a home was sold, the new buyers would inherit the property tax rebate, and the sellers would get nothing. After the Bamboozled column wrote about the issue, the state made changes to the form to apply for the benefit.
So today, Maye said, if you were to qualify for the Homestead rebate and subsequently sell/move from your New Jersey home, you could still receive a check or direct deposit for the rebate.
Here’s an example offered by the Division of Taxation:
“If you no longer own the home that was your principal residence on October 1, 2014, or you plan to close on or before November 30, 2016, you must answer `No’ to the question asking whether you still own the property when filing the homestead benefit application.”
“So the reader will need to fill out the rebate form year by year and indicate whether they still own the home for which they are entitled to a Homestead rebate,” Maye said.
Maye said as a reminder, the amount appropriated in the New Jersey state budget for property tax relief programs impacts what is available for the Homestead benefit program for any given year.
“The State of New Jersey’s finances has lead to the multi-year lag in Homestead rebates as well as questions about future amounts available,” Maye said.
So don’t spend your future Homestead rebate just yet.
To learn more about the rebate, check out Treasury’s web site.
You can also check the status of your personal rebate on the site.
Email your questions to moc.p1508331605leHye1508331605noMJN1508331605@ksA1508331605.