Casco: Assessor touts tax breaks

By Dawn De Busk

Staff Writer

CASCO — The Homestead Exemption sounds like a tax break benefiting folks who have cleared and cultivated property and built a home in a rural area.

Yet, it is a tax break for anyone who has owned a home for more than a year and calls that house their primary residence.

The Homestead Exemption is tax relief that Town Assessor Renee Lachapelle is trying to educate homeowners about. Her staff at the Cumberland County Regional Assessing office has been mailing postcards to new homeowners on their list.

“Last year, the Homestead Exemption was $15,000. This year, the exemption is $20,000,” Lachapelle said.

“We have 722 homestead applications,” she said.

“We will send a mailing to all homeowners we think might qualify. That will enable every taxpayer who qualifies to receive it,” she said.

“If a taxpayer is not currently earning a Homestead Exemption, the person needs to own the home for a year, and live in it as a primary resident,” she said.

According to the Maine Government webpage, The Homestead Exemption is a “program [that] provides a measure of property tax relief for certain individuals [who] have owned homestead property in Maine for at least 12 months and make the property they occupy on April 1 their permanent residence.”

Lachapelle said that real estate agents often do not remind buyers of the tax break. So, that is the assessor’s job, she said.

A big benefit — besides the obvious tax deduction — is that the Homestead Exemption stays with the homeowner even when a new home is purchased. Once a person qualifies, there is no requirement to fill out an application on an annual basis.

However that is not the case with the state’s personal property tax relief programs. That paperwork has to be completed each year.

“Personal property — l have their (valuation) information back to file with the state way before the deadline of Dec. 31,” she said.

“This year, the state has opened up to have more companies to file for the reimbursement program. Unless you are retail, all the service-oriented businesses should qualify,” she said.

“We are trying to make it known to business owners that they do qualify. We call the businesses and say they qualify. The state doesn’t automatically do that,” she said.

She offered to provide a presentation to the businesses if the Casco Board of Selectmen was interested in scheduling that.

“Through our mailing program, we can contact all of the businesses and get them on board to qualify,” she said, adding the application process is complicated and the town’s assessing office would be available to help.

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