Thousands of rescue workers are injured in the line of duty each year. They risk their lives to save ours, and sometimes they get hurt in the process; these injuries may even be fatal. But in a few states, Election Day may bring some relief to these impacted rescue workers and their families via ballot initiatives.
Florida is introducing Amendment 3 on the Nov. 8 ballot where residents will vote on whether the state drafts legislation that “would create a new property tax exemption for first responders who are totally and permanently disabled as a result of an injury sustained in the line of duty,” as reported by The Palm Beach Post. If the amendment passes, disabled first responders may be eligible to receive a full or partial homestead property tax exemption that will become effective on Jan. 1, 2017. Florida already provides a property tax exemption for surviving spouses of first responders who have died in the line of duty.
Florida is not the only state considering relief for first responders. Virginians will have a similar ballot proposal to vote on this year. Proposed Constitutional Amendment Question 2 on the Nov. 8 ballot proposes providing a property tax exemption for primary residences of surviving families of any law enforcement officer, firefighter, search and rescue personnel or emergency medical services personnel killed in the line of duty, so long as the surviving spouse does not remarry. The state would not be responsible for managing the exemption, however. If the amendment passes, the discretion to grant these exemptions would be given to local jurisdictions.
Other states and local jurisdictions have similar tax break programs. Montgomery and Baltimore Counties in Maryland offer a tax credit for disabled workers and spouses of fallen law enforcement officers and rescue workers. The credit is “100 percent of the county real property tax on the dwelling of a surviving spouse (who has not remarried),” according to the Montgomery County Department of Finance. Certain counties in New York also offer an exemption of the assessed value for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers’ primary residences.
Connecticut’s version of the tax break is an “optional relief” for firefighters and emergency personnel. The Connecticut General Assembly’s property tax statutes grant municipalities the authority to give first responders property tax relief in two ways: either “(1) an abatement of up to $1,000 in property taxes due for any fiscal year, or (2) an exemption applicable to the assessed value of real or personal property up $1 million divided by the mill rate, in effect at the time of assessment.”
Voters in Florida have a lot to consider in the upcoming election. If the ballot initiative passes, the state legislature still has to write the bill and determine the amount of the property tax exemption for disabled first responders. Then there’s the question of how the revenue given up through the tax break will be offset. The new exemption would effectively shift the burden to the rest of the taxpayers to provide revenue for local government needs. But perhaps voters will decide that is the price they pay for shifting the burden of daily emergencies to rescue workers and first responders.
Continue the discussion on LinkedIn: What, if any, property tax relief does your state offer to the disabled and family members of deceased rescue workers?
For more information about state tax issues, sign up for a free trial on Bloomberg BNA’s Premier State Tax Library.
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