2021 | Government

UPDATED: Elrich, state lawmakers urge residents to apply for homeowners’ tax credit

Deadline is Oct. 1; credit helps middle- to low-income households

share this
montgomery-county-logo

This story was updated at 8:55 a.m. Sept. 16, 2021, to correct the name of the tax program in the headline and correct a detail from Louis Wilen. It was updated at 4:05 p.m. Sept. 21, 2021, to clarify comments by state Sen. Craig Zucker and add comments from Meghann Malone, a public information officer for the state’s Department of Assessments and Taxation.

Montgomery County Executive Marc Elrich and state lawmakers want middle- and low-income residents to take advantage of a homeowners’ property tax credit program before the Oct. 1 application deadline.

The Homeowners’ Property Tax Credit Program allows homeowners with a maximum gross household income of $60,000 to receive a tax credit. The tax credit varies depending on the overall income. 

Elrich was joined by state Sen. Craig Zucker (D-Brookeville) and Del. Al Carr (D-Kensington) on Wednesday at a news briefing, where they described the credit and legislation the Maryland General Assembly passed in the 2021 legislative session.

The legislation helps property owners who should have been eligible get more money through the credit.

Zucker said a State Department of Taxation and Assessments error meant residents in Montgomery County and Baltimore city were missing out on tens of millions of dollars.

“We want to make sure we are righting things that are wrong in the past, and correcting mistakes,” Zucker said.

The legislation this past session, House Bill 158, amended the state’s property tax code by allowing homeowners who qualified for previous tax credits to get an additional refund. It also defined “total real property tax” as a tax that “does not include any adjustment for any other property tax credit … claimed against the property tax imposed on the dwelling.” 

That change effectively corrected a mistake in which residents were being penalized for getting other tax credits, which should not have affected the homeowners’ property tax credit, Carr said.

Olney resident Louis Wilen first realized the error on tax bills in 2016. For four years, he lobbied state lawmakers to change the tax law, so that he and what turned out to be thousands of other Maryland homeowners could each get back hundreds or thousands of dollars from the state, Fox 5 reported in April. 

Zucker said residents 70 years and older will automatically be sent a check in the mail to retroactively get what they are owed. 

Meghann Malone, a public information officer for the state’s Department of Assessments and Taxation, wrote in an email that anybody above that age would still need to apply, but would be sent money for the past three years. She added that the tax credit is restricted by income eligibility, not age. 

“For instance, if I’m over 70 and I’m just now finding out about the credit, I would be eligible to also apply for years 2018, 2019 and 2020,” Malone wrote. “Anyone younger than 70 would only be eligible to apply for 2021.”

Elrich said that last year, more than 4,300 property owners received more than $5.6 million in tax credits. The average credit was $1,290.

“That is a significant amount for many of these families,” Elrich said.

Elrich, Zucker and Carr said many more families probably qualify for the task credit. They are trying to raise awareness as working families struggle financially due to the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Right now, we feel like it’s being a little underutilized,” Zucker said. 

Steve Bohnel can be reached at steve.bohnel@bethesdamagazine.com