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Tornado victims may be eligible for tax exemptions

DIAMOND – A tax credit could be in the future for Diamond and Coal City property owners affected by the tornado.

Two distinct tax exemptions may apply to several homeowners who made improvements to their property during post-tornado construction.

Diamond Mayor Terry Kernc said she and county assessor Dave Henderson are working on making the two exemptions available to homeowners as they may require an application process. Depending on each homeowner’s situation, the exemptions may not take effect until the 2015 tax year or later.

“I just want everyone to be aware that this is out there,” Kernc said. “The last thing I want is for anyone to miss an opportunity.”

Natural Disaster

Homestead Exemption

The Natural Disaster Homestead Exemption is a permanent tax credit that reimburses homeowners whose property values may have increased after a disaster.

Often during the reconstruction process, owners make home improvements or increases in living space, altering their home’s property value and potentially driving up property taxes.

The exemption considers assessed property value before the disaster struck and compares that value to whatever the home’s new value is after upgrades are made. The difference between the two figures is issued as a reimbursement.

“If your home was totally demolished, you literally have a brand-new home that could be worth much more than your previous home,” Kernc said.

The reimbursement amount is fixed and applies to homeowners every tax cycle until they sell their home.

However, the natural disaster exemption is capped, meaning those who made significant improvements may not receive the full difference between pre and post tornado values.


Improvement Exemption

To qualify for this exemption, no disaster damage is needed. It simply applies to homeowners who make improvements to their property, Henderson said.

The improvement exemption works in tandem with the natural disaster credit. For example, if a homeowner hits the limit on the natural disaster tax credit, then they could likely receive a homestead improvement exemption as well.

The combined exemptions work together to help disaster-affected homeowners to mitigate property tax increases.

A noted difference: This exemption is only available for four tax years and after the four years a homeowner utilizes the exemption, it expires.

Henderson said for years the Grundy County assessor’s office has automatically applied the homestead improvement exemption to eligible households.

“It makes life easier because often, they don’t even know about it,” Henderson said.

Henderson said his office is still deciding the easiest way to make the natural disaster exemptions available, but assured homeowners no hurry is necessary at this point.

“Really, there’s no rush on this,” he said. “Our goal is to make things as easy as possible for the taxpayers.”

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