Included with property tax bills next year is a Homestead Verification Form, which is printed on pink- or rose-colored paper.
"This form must be completed if homeowners want to continue receiving the Homestead Standard Deduction," Clay County Auditor Mary Jo Alumbaugh said. "Completing the form confirms the individual is using the property as his or her primary permanent home, which is an eligibility requirement for the deduction."
The Homestead Standard Deduction, which is the most commonly used property tax deduction in the state, reduces the taxable assessed value of the homestead portion of a property by either 60 percent or $45,000, whichever is less.
According to the Indiana Department of Local Government Finance, a homestead is defined as an individual or family's primary residence, which includes one garage and up to one acre of land immediately surrounding the residence.
"In total, there are 7,943 homestead deductions in Clay County for the 2009 pay 10 property tax year," Alumbaugh told The Brazil Times. "We sent out 7,790 forms because we were having individuals fill out the form when they came to the courthouse to record property deeds on housing purchases, so we already have had a few filled out."
The deduction has a major impact on how much property tax homeowners owe.
For the 2009 pay 10 property tax year, the total assessed value of residential property in Clay County is $647,191,910. However, with the 7,943 homestead deductions on record, along with the other various deductions, the net assessed value or residential property is $204,703,665, which means only 31.63 percent of Clay County home values are being taxed.
"The homestead deduction gives a qualifying individual or couple a substantial property tax benefit by lowering their tax obligation," Alumbaugh said.
Part of the reason the forms need to be filled out is to help the county and state verify the validity of the deduction and prevent fraud. The deduction may only be utilized on a single property in the state, regardless if an individual owns residences in different counties.
"When individuals who do not qualify receive this benefit, it costs other taxpayers more," Alumbaugh said.
On the form, individuals or married couples claiming the homestead deduction must provide the last five digits of their driver's license and social security numbers. If an individual legitimately does not have a driver's license or social security number, the last five digits of a control number on a document issued by the federal government, such as a passport or work visa, may be provided as long as an explanation of the type of number is included as well.
The Homestead Verification Form will also be included in the spring billing of property taxes in 2011 and 2012, and must be completed and turned in to the Clay County Auditor's Office by Jan. 1, 2013, or the deduction will be removed starting on 2012 pay 13 property tax bills.
Additional information regarding the Homestead Verification Form is available at www.in.gov/dlgf/8455.htm.
Those with specific questions about property tax eligibility, or the form itself, should contact the Auditor's Office at 448-9001.
Submitting the form
Multiple options are available for individuals to return the Homestead Verification Form.
Other than hand-delivering the form to the Clay County Auditor's Office, it may be mailed to: Clay County Auditor, 609 W. National Avenue Room 105, Brazil, Ind., 47834.
The form may also be completed online and sent to the auditor electronically at www.indiana-homestead.com. By utilizing this option, postage costs will be saved and also reduces the cost of processing the information.