by DUANE DUGGAN Realtor and Author RE/MAX of Boulder

Property values have risen substantially in Boulder County and this can put upwards pressure on taxes. This burden is especially noticed by seniors on fixed incomes trying to stay in their homes.

As a reminder, property taxes may be paid in one single payment by May 2 or in two equal payments.  If your taxes are submitted in two payments, the first half of the payment is due by February 28. The second half of the payment is due by June 15.  If you have a loan and the lender is escrowing for taxes, the lender will be paying your taxes. If not, be sure to pay attention to the due dates.

Seniors have a few different opportunities in Colorado and Boulder County that are available to ease the burden of the payment of property taxes.

Senior Tax Deferral program

First is the senior tax deferral program. This is a program offered by the State of Colorado that enables you to postpone the payment of your property taxes until you sell the property, or even until your death when your estate can deal with it. Of course, there is a bit of a catch. Interest is applied and accrues on the deferred amount. The interest rate is usually reasonable, but it is different from year to year. Also, there are eligibility requirements, so you will need to fill out an application for approval through the Boulder County Treasurer’s office. The Treasurer’s Office sends the application to the State of Colorado for approval. If approved, you have the option of deferring either the entire amount of your taxes or half of the taxes.

Seniors can use this benefit to simply help their annual cash flow with the money that would have gone to taxes to be used for any other desired purpose.

Eligibility requirements for application

To apply, you must be 65 years old on or before January 1 of the year you are applying. You cannot receive income from the property by renting it out as it must be your primary residence, but you can maintain a home office. If the property is owned by a trust, you must be the trustee and beneficiary of the trust. Lastly, if you have a reverse mortgage, you likely will not be able to defer your taxes as the lender is required to submit a subordination agreement with the application.

Timing

The deadline for application delivery to the Treasurer’s Office is March 18. If you want to defer next year, start thinking about it in January and get your application in.

Making an application

You can follow this link to start your application: bouldercounty.org/property-and-land/treasurer/taxes/property-tax-deferral/senior.

To be ready to get the application filled out, have the following ready:

  • Your full name
  • If the property is held in a trust, the name of the trust
  • Property address
  • Your date of birth
  • Phone number
  • Name of your mortgage company (if applicable)
  • Approximate balance on your mortgage
  • Whether or not you have a reverse mortgage

Senior Homestead Property Tax Exemption (Discounted property tax program for seniors)

In 2000, Colorado voters approved a property tax exemption for qualified seniors (also known as the Senior Homestead Exemption) as a state constitutional amendment. The Colorado legislature makes a determination each year to see if the state budget allows for this discounted property tax program for seniors. Since 2000, there have only been a few years when the program was suspended due to budget shortfalls.

The property tax exemption does not happen automatically for eligible seniors. First of all, a senior needs to know about the program, then must apply for it through their county assessor’s website. The requirements for eligibility are quite simple:

  • The senior must be 65 years old by January 1 of the year of the application.
  • The senior needs to be the owner of record for the property and lived in it as a primary residence for 10 consecutive years before January 1.
  • The deadline to apply is July 15th of each year. If the senior qualifies, the exemption goes into effect for the tax year that is being applied for. The discount will first appear in the tax bill that is sent in January of each year.
  • For those who qualify, 50 percent of the first $200,000 in actual value of their primary residence is exempted, for a maximum exemption amount of $100,000 in actual value. The State of Colorado pays the property taxes on the exempted value.
  • Exceptions to ownership and occupancy requirements include: if a property is owned by a trust, corporate partnership, or legal entity; the applicant or spouse is or was living in a nursing home, hospital, or assisted living facility; the residence was condemned or destroyed by a natural disaster; or homeowner passed away prior to January 1. In the event of deeding the property into a trust, the trustee can re-apply. A surviving spouse can also re-apply in the event of the death of a spouse.

For more information about the senior tax exemption, visit the Boulder County Assessor website at: bouldercounty.org/property-and-land/assessor/senior-exemption.

Senior Homestead Tax Prorations When Selling

Because the Senior Property Tax Exemption is a discount for qualifying seniors, there can be confusion when a senior sells their home. Oftentimes the property tax amount shown in the Multiple Listing Service (MLS) is at the discounted rate. Care should be taken to make sure a home buyer understands what the property taxes will be when the senior tax exemption no longer applies.

For the home closing, taxes are prorated to the lower “senior” amount and the home buyer gets the benefit of the lower tax rate until the end of the year that was prorated. At the start of the following year, however, property taxes will resume to the non-discounted amount.

To learn more about property tax prorations, see my article at: athomecolorado.com/real-estate-at-home-colorado/property-tax-prorations-at-closings.

Senior Tax Worker Program

As a senior – in this case, 60 years of age or older – you can work off some of your property taxes through temporary employment with Boulder County. The senior must own property in Boulder County and live at the location where the taxes are due. The senior will be paid $12.32 per hour and can earn up to the amount of the county portion of the tax bill not to exceed $1,000.

NOTE: Due to ongoing concerns surrounding the transmission of COVID-19, all Boulder County employees must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and submit proof of vaccination or an approved reasonable accommodation prior to starting work. Also, due to the ongoing pandemic, open positions for senior tax workers may be limited.

Half of the salary will be paid by the Boulder County Commissioner’s Office and half by the hiring department within the county. The senior will receive a paycheck, subject to regular withholding. The senior will be responsible for paying their property taxes on their own by the due date.

The application for the Senior Tax Worker Program is available on the Boulder County Commissioner’s Office website and the deadline to apply is July 15: bouldercounty.org/jobs/senior-tax-worker-program.

There you have it — three avenues to help seniors with their property taxes!

Duane Duggan is an award-winning Realtor® and author of the book Realtor for Life. He has been a Realtor for RE/MAX of Boulder in Colorado since 1982 and has facilitated over 2,500 transactions over his career.
He has been awarded two of the highest honors bestowed by
RE/MAX International: The Lifetime Achievement Award
and the Circle of Legends Award.
For questions, email [email protected],
call 303.441.5611 or visit boulderco.com.