New Jersey voters gave a resounding "yes" to expanding property tax benefits for veterans in last week's election.
The ballot question, which passed with 76% of the vote, makes veterans eligible for a $250 property tax deduction regardless of whether they served during a time of war or peace.
It also expands a property tax exemption to include totally disabled veterans no matter when or where they served.
Here's what you need to know about who qualifies under the law, how to get the benefits and what state officials say about when you'll see a drop in your tax bill.
Previously, only veterans who served during times of war were eligible for the deduction and exemption.
But voters last week overwhelmingly said they think active-duty veterans who served during peacetime should also get the property tax benefits.Who is eligible? The deduction and exemption are for honorably discharged veterans with active-duty service in periods of war or peacetime. If an eligible veteran has died, the surviving spouse can collect the tax relief benefits. Veterans must own their homes to qualify. The 100% property tax exemption for disabled veterans is applicable only to taxes paid on a primary residence.
NJ election:Expanding property tax deduction for veterans? What you need to know
What do I need to do?
Veterans or surviving spouses need to apply at their municipal tax office.
They need to fill out an application form and provide a copy of their DD214 discharge paperwork.
Disabled veterans seeking the 100% exemption need to show Department of Veterans Affairs verification of 100% permanent and total disability, and local rules may require you to bring documents such as proof of property ownership.
It's probably a good idea to call your municipal government office to see what paperwork you need, and if their hours or application procedures have been affected by the coronavirus pandemic.
The application forms currently ask veterans to identify what period of war they served in, but that is no longer required because of the constitutional amendment approved by voters.
Updated forms will be available by Dec. 1, but residents who want to apply sooner can just cross out the wartime service section and use the old forms, according to the New Jersey Department of the Treasury.
Veterans eligible for the $250 deduction should fill out form VSS. Disabled veterans eligible for the total exemption should fill out form DVSSE.
Find the forms and more information for veterans online at www.state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/.
Do I apply every year?
No, apply only once, the Treasury Department said.
But according to state law, you must notify the municipal tax office if something changes your eligibility, like if you move.
And local officials can ask questions to make sure you continue to qualify for tax relief programs.
When will I get benefits?
The amendment is effective on Dec. 4, according to the Treasury Department, but it's not yet clear when you'll see the deduction on your quarterly bill or the exemption.
A spokeswoman for the Department of Community Affairs, which oversees local government issues such as property tax levies, said it was "too soon" to comment on the expanded benefits.
How many people will this help?
About 172,000 veterans claimed the benefits in the 2019 tax year, and an estimated 57,000 more are now eligible because of the amendment.
Stacey Barchenger is a reporter in the New Jersey Statehouse. For unlimited access to her work covering New Jersey’s lawmakers and political power structure, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.
Email: [email protected] Phone: 732-427-0114 Twitter: @sbarchenger