08 Feb Can I get back benefits from the Senior Freeze?
Q. I am trying to help out an elderly friend with the Senior Freeze. She is a first-time filer so a base year has not been established yet. Based on all the eligibility requirements being met, does someone need to complete an application for each year up to the time they first became eligible? My elderly friend turned 65 in 1998 and has been in the same home since 1979. I saw on the state website that the forms go back to 1998. So if she was first eligible that year, would she need to complete each year’s application to establish her base year now? And what happens if she exceeded the income level in one of those years? Finally, would she be eligible for a refund of the past years when she didn’t file?
A. It’s nice of you to try to help your friend with the Senior Freeze.
This benefit is available to New Jersey residents age 65 or older or who are receiving federal Social Security Disability benefit payments as of December 31, 2019.
“The applications related to 2021 will be available in March, but as you’ve found out, there are forms dating back to 1998 when the program first began,” said Claudia Mott, a certified financial planner with Epona Financial Solutions in Basking Ridge.
Mott said there are a number of factors that must be met in order to qualify for the Senior Freeze, and these will apply to your friend as you try to establish her base year.
Age and income are two of them as well as how long she’s lived in her residence or mobile home, she said.
“As a rule, there is a three-year residency requirement,” Mott said. “Generally, in order to be eligible, you must have lived in your home prior to December 31, 2016 and remained in the home through December 21, 2020.”
Additionally you must have been a continuous resident of New Jersey for at least the last 10 years, as either a homeowner or a renter.
Property tax payments or mobile home site fees must be up-to-date and you must meet income requirements. The total annual income limit for 2019 is $91,505 and for 2020 it is $92,969. This limit applies regardless of your marital or civil union status so long as you both lived in the same household as of December 31, she said.
In order to establish a base year, she would need to file all of the PTR-1 applications dating back to the point where she meets all of the eligibility requirements, Mott said.
“This will involve comparing her total income to the applicable limit to be sure she qualified for that given year and met all the other specifications,” she said. “If her income disqualifies her in any one year, the retroactive applications should start in the next year that she meets the income limit parameter and for each successive year that she continues to fall within the guidelines.”
The base year will be established based on the initial application and will be used to calculate her benefit going forward, Mott said.
“The Senior Freeze benefit is not paid retroactively and each new year must be filed before the deadline in order to qualify for a benefit,” she said. “The state does not process late applications.”
For help, you can try the N.J. Senior Freeze hotline at (800) 882-6597.
Another alternative might be to reach out to the office of Aging or Senior Services for the county in which your friend lives to ask if they have anyone who could offer help with the forms, she said.
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This story was originally published on Feb. 8, 2022.
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