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More people eligible for Pennsylvania's property tax rebate

June 30, 2007|By DON AINES

CHAMBERSBURG, PA.-Like many other senior citizen homeowners, Phyllis Henry of Fayetteville, Pa., was applying for a property tax rebate for the first time this year.

"I'd heard about it before, but I thought our income was too high," Henry said Friday, one day before the normal deadline to file with Pennsylvania for the property tax and rent rebates. "Then we got a letter from Greene Township that they raised the amount."

Prior to 2006, the income eligibility limit for both renters and homeowners was $15,000. For 2006, however, the gross income limit for homeowners was raised to $35,000.

For renters, the gross income limit remains at $15,000, said Penny Stoner, a legislative assistant for state Rep. Rob Kauffman, R-Franklin. The maximum rebate also was raised from $500 to $650, according to state Sen. Terry Punt's office.

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This year, the state also has extended the application deadline from June 30 to Dec. 31, according to Punt's office.

"With the cost of living on the rise, a new sense of urgency prompted the legislature to double the size of the program," Punt, R-Franklin, said recently.

Those eligible for the program include those 65 years of age and older; widows and widowers ages 50 and older; and people ages 18 to 64 on permanent disability, Stoner said. The maximum rebate is $650 for homeowners and renters making less than $8,000, limited to 20 percent of their rent or tax bill, according to the guidelines.

"I just started receiving Social Security disability," said Virginia Thomas, who was getting her paperwork checked out at Kauffman's Chambersburg office. She owns a mobile home and pays lot rent, so she can apply for both a rent and property tax rebate.

"The most common error is they don't count gross income," Stoner said. "They only count taxable income."

Pensions, Social Security and other forms of income have to be counted into gross income to determine if a person or household is eligible, she said.

"We've done hundreds of these" this year, Stoner said of the rebates. "February and March are the busiest, but the government recently extended the deadline and we had an influx. It reminded people. We've probably done 20 this week."

Henry was asked what she intended to do with the $250 rebate on 2006 property taxes she expects to receive.

"Probably pay this year's taxes," she said.

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