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The Maryland Homestead Tax Credit is so misunderstood, we thought we would devote a whole page to explain how it actually works. Many people believe that their property tax bill will be reduced because the property owner lives in the property as their principal residence. This is not true. The Homestead Tax Credit is a limitation on increasing the property tax bill to no more than a certain percentage higher than the prior year property tax bill. Therefore, we think a better name for the Homestead Tax Credit would have been the Homestead Tax CAP. Note that this program is separate and distinct from the Homeowners Tax Credit program.
The Cap is applied separately to the state portion and separately to the county/city portion of the property tax bill. The state limitation is 10% on only the state portion of the tax bill. The county/city limitation Cap percentage varies by local jurisdiction. Maryland lists the local jurisdiction percentages on their website.
Consider the following example of a computation of a Baltimore County Homestead Tax Credit. Suppose last year the tax assessment was $100,000.00. Based on the Baltimore County tax rate of $1.10, last years property tax would be $1,100.00. Suppose the following year, the county raises the assessment to $180,000.00. Since Baltimore County caps the increase at 4%, the homeowner would only pay $1,144.00 ($1,100.00 x 1.04). The tax bill will reflect the full property tax of $1,980.00 with a Homestead Tax Credit reduction of $836.00 for a net total due of $1,144.00 ($1,980.00 - $836.00 = $1,144.00)
Suppose the next year the tax assessment drops from $180,000.00 to $150,000.00. Even though the assessment has dropped, the amount of taxes the homeowner would pay will still go up from the prior year. This is because the Homestead Tax Credit was artificially keeping the amount of taxes the homeowner paid below the full tax payment amount. The tax bill will reflect taxes of $1,650.00. ($150,000.00 x $1.10). After applying the Homestead Tax Credit of $461.00 the amount due from the homeowner will be $1,189.00. Although the assessment went down, $1,189.00 is 4% higher than the prior year tax bill of $1,144.00.
Therefore, regardless of the tax assessment going up or down, the actual net tax bill may still be increasing by the applicable percentage over last years taxes. In many cases, while the tax assessment may go down, the tax bill to be paid can still increase. (Due to the catching up of prior year accumulated Homestead Tax Credit)
Only owner occupied principal residences qualify for the Homestead Tax Credit.
Locate your property on the State Department of Assessments and Taxation (SDAT) website. See the bottom of that page under the heading "Homestead Application Information." The status should say "Approved."
Download a Homestead tax credit application and submit the application.
Unfortunately not. The Homestead Tax Credit was put into place to limit dramatic property tax increases from year to year, but only for the particular homeowner that already owns the home at the time of the assessment increase. If the property is purchased, since the new owner had never previously paid any prior year property taxes on this property, there is no prior year to apply the Cap to. The new owner does not get to take over the prior owner's Homestead Cap status.
Regardless, new owners can and should apply for Homestead status to limit future year to year property tax increases even though the Cap will not apply to the first year of purchase.
Normally no. Once it is designated on the tax assessment records, the designation carries over from year to year. However, if you notice that the county has changed your principal residence designation, you should check the SDAT website to verify the status has not changed.
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