May 04, 2014

Should Seniors Pay Property Taxes?

Texas law allows seniors to defer their home property taxes until death. The heirs would owe the back taxes and 8% interest. Most Texas seniors don’t use the law because they don’t know about it, but a candidate for mayor of Irving, Texas, is using it in his campaign. The Dallas Morning News asked for opinions, and I wrote the following, which was printed April 26:

“Many Seniors Need a Break

‘The Texas legislature was right in providing an avenue for seniors to defer their property tax payments until death. Not every senior would choose to do it, but many seniors need this option. Poverty and hardship are very high among seniors. Social Security is now the main income for most American seniors, and Social Security was never intended to be the mainstay.

‘The current situation of hardship for seniors isn’t even the main argument. The trend toward breaking promises and robbing seniors of everything they had a right to expect is the main argument. On April 16, for example, hundreds of seniors rallied downtown because mighty AT&T, a giant and profitable corporation, had unilaterally decided to take away retirees’  health care! Many of us have already lost promised health care benefits. The Ryan budget, recently passed in the U.S. House, also slashes the right to retire in America. Almost every year, seniors have to fight back against efforts to undermine Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.

‘When President Reagan brought his economic plan to America, 3 in 5 Americans had a decent pension plan. Now, fewer than 20% do.

‘Many seniors need any break they can get!”

Anyone interested in the law may find a brief at

It says: “Texas Tax Code – Section 33.06. Deferred Collection Of Taxes On Residence Homestead Of Elderly Or Disabled Person

‘§ 33.06. DEFERRED COLLECTION OF TAXES ON RESIDENCE HOMESTEAD OF ELDERLY OR DISABLED PERSON. (a) An individual is entitled to defer collection of a tax, abate a suit to collect a delinquent tax, or abate a sale to foreclose a tax lien if the individual: (1) is 65 years of age or older or is disabled as defined by Section 11.13(m); and (2) the tax was imposed against property that the individual owns and occupies as a residence homestead. (b) To obtain a deferral, an individual must file with the chief appraiser for the appraisal district in which the property is located an affidavit stating the facts required to be established by Subsection (a). The chief appraiser shall notify each taxing unit participating in the district of the filing. After an affidavit is filed under this subsection, a taxing unit may not file suit to collect delinquent taxes on the property and the property may not be sold at a sale to foreclose the tax lien until the 181st day after the date the individual no longer owns and occupies the property as a residence homestead….”

The question is not whether or not seniors may defer their homestead property tax, that’s clearly established in Texas law. The question isn’t whether or not seniors should avail themselves of this option because they don’t have to do it. They can do it if they want to. The only question is whether or not we defend this right.

An excellent argument for the senior tax deferment was in Steve Blow’s column in the Dallas newspaper on May 4, 2014. Blow said a 1998 Texas law gave commercial property owners massive tax breaks. Big corporations customarily expect tax abatements whenever they do anything, but the 1998 law gives them a permanent advantage when paying property taxes. Blow tells about Williams Square in Los Colinas, which sold for $226 million in 2012. The owners immediately asked that their appraisal be lowered and, eventually got it lowered to $147 million! Here’s what Steve Blow said, “When the law took effect in 1998, residential property owners were paying 42 percent of total property taxes. Now we’re paying more than 50 percent.”

In other words, seniors who pay their homestead taxes are being ripped off big time by corporations. So why shouldn’t we take the deferral?

–Gene Lantz, President

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