Property records unearth millions of dollars in Colorado may well be lost to bogus tax breaks under a program to assist veterans and senior citizens. Auditors in Colorado now want the payments repaid. Property records need to be more stringent and diligent over the tax break program. As from 2000 seniors over 65 have been granted a ‘homestead exemption’ which allows exemption of 50% of taxes up to $200,000. This applicable on personal homes which have been occupied for 10 years or more. This was expanded in 2006 to embrace disabled veterans.
Colorado deputy state auditor commented how the program functions without control. Property records are initially confirmed by the County however there are no requirements to monitor eligibility on an ongoing basis. Neither are they responsible for reimbursement for incorrect exemptions. Further to the inaugural audit of the $117 million paid out in 2014 almost $25.3 million couldn’t be accounted for independently.
While it may be that most exemptions should not be questioned proportionately an amount of that figure may well confirm improper payments. One way round the system is not advising the state on the death of the qualifying property owner. State auditors uncovered over 10,000 exemptions totaling $5.1 million distributed last year to deceased applicants. State laws allow surviving spouses to claim exemption but insists on updated applications but that the majority of counties aren’t rigidly enforcing. There seems to be a lone exemption in Arapahoe County which employs a full time employee to oversee exemptions and property records. Assessors in Arapahoe confirm they do confirm death certificates.
Around 2,436 claimants which represented exemptions totaling £1 million involved single occupancy and therefore likely someone unqualified was claiming exemption. Some deaths in Logan County were taking over a year to surface in property records. It may well be that the reticence to confirm the passing of an individual awarded exemption may well indicate the typical time taken to clear an estate. An idea being touted is to notify yearly to confirm eligibility but also to make it clear as to penalties of committing perjury.
As the population of Colorado continues to age quality control over tax exemption for veterans and the elderly will need to be more stringent. Around 1 in 9 residents are 65 years or older. However state projections put forward that nearly 1 in 5 will reach this statistic by 2040.
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