Property Tax Exemption for Senior Citizens and People with Disabilities

If you are a senior citizen or a person with disabilities with your residence in Washington State you may qualify for a property tax reduction under the property tax exemption for senior citizens and people with disabilities program.

Eligibility Requirements

There are four eligibility requirements you must meet to be eligible for the program. Each requirement must be met during the qualifying year. This is the year before taxes are due.

For example: If you are applying for a reduction of your 2022 property taxes, then you must meet the requirements for the age or disability, ownership, occupancy, and household income in 2021.

1. Age or Disability

On December 31 of the year before taxes are due you must meet one of the following criteria:

  • At least 61 years of age
  • Unable to work because of a disability
  • A disabled veteran with a service-connected evaluation of at least 80% or receiving compensation from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs at the 100% rate for a service-connected disability

Proof of age or disability is required. Proof of disability can be an Award Letter from Social Security, a VA Benefits Award Letter, or a Proof of Disability Statement completed by your physician. A Proof of Disability Statement form can be obtained from our office.

2. Ownership

You must own your home for which the exemption is claimed in the year before the taxes to be exempted are due. The type of ownership must be in total (fee owner), as a life estate (including a lease for life), or by contract purchase.

3. Occupancy

The property must be your principal place of residence. A property is considered your primary residence if you occupy the home for more than six months in a calendar year. For example, you must be living in your home more than six months in 2021 to receive an exemption on your 2022 property tax. The length of occupancy in the calendar year was nine months for the 2019 qualifying year.

Year Property Taxes DueQualifying YearOccupancy in Calendar Year
20222021More than 6 months
20212020More than 6 months
20202019More than 9 months
20192018More than 6 months

Your residence may qualify even if you are temporarily in a hospital, nursing home, boarding home, adult family home, or home of a relative. You may rent your residence to someone else while you're temporarily away if the rental income is used to pay the facility costs.

Property used as a vacation home is not eligible for the exemption program.

4. Household Income (Whatcom County Residents Only)

Beginning in 2020, your annual household disposable income cannot exceed $42,043 with your 2019 income to qualify for an exemption on your 2020 property taxes. For property tax due in 2019, your 2018 income cannot exceed $40,000.

Year Property Taxes DueQualifying YearDisposable Income Limit
20222021$42,043
20212020$42,043
20202019$42,043
20192018$40,000


Disposable Income

Disposable income is calculated differently than adjusted gross income for federal income taxes. Disposable income includes household income from all sources, regardless of whether the income is taxable or not taxable for federal income tax purposes. Some of the most common sources of disposable income include:

  • Wages
  • Social Security and Railroad Retirement benefits
  • Military pay and benefits other than attendant-care and medical-aid payments
  • Veterans benefits other than attendant-care payments, medical-aid payments, veteran's disability compensation and dependency and indemnity compensation
  • Pension receipts, distributions from retirement bonds and Keogh plans and the taxable portion of Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs)
  • Business, Rental and Farm Income (Depreciation cannot be deducted and you may not deduct business or rental losses or use those losses to offset other income)
  • Annuity receipts. For purposes of this program, "annuity" is defined as a series of long-term payments, where long-term means a period of more than one full year from the annuity starting date.
  • Labor and Industry (L&I) and other disability payments
  • Interest and dividends
  • Capital gains, other than the gain from the sale of your residence that was reinvested in another residence within one year. Capital losses may not be deducted from income or used to offset capital gains.

Deductions from Disposable Income

Deductions from Disposable Income Before 2022

For the property taxes due in 2021 and before (2020 qualifying year and previous) there are four types of expenses that may be deducted from combined disposable income. These include non-reimbursed amounts paid for you and your spouse.

  • Medicare insurance premiums paid under Title XVIII of the Medicare Insurance Act. (Medicare Parts B, C, and D)
  • Nursing home, assisted living facility (boarding home), or adult family home costs
  • Prescription drug costs
  • In-home Care. The care received must be similar to the care provided by a nursing home. For example, therapy or nursing care received in the home, attendant care to assist with household and/or personal care tasks. Meals on Wheels (or similar service) and Life Alert (or similar service). Special furniture and equipment such as wheelchairs, hospital beds, and oxygen also qualify.

Deductions from Disposable Income 2022 and Onward

Substitute House Bill (SHB) 1438 has added additional deductions from disposable income starting for the property taxes due in 2022. Below is a list of most of the deductions that are available for the property tax year 2022 and onward.

  • Living in a nursing home, assisted living facility, or adult family home
  • Prescription drugs
  • In-home care that is similar to the care you would receive in a nursing home. In-home care includes:
    • Medical treatment
    • Physical therapy
    • Household care
    • Personal care. Personal care includes assistance with:
      • Preparing meals
      • Getting dressed
      • Eating
      • Taking medications
      • Personal hygiene
  • Premiums for Medicare Parts A, B, C, and D
  • Premiums for Medicare supplemental policies (Medigap)
  • Durable medical and mobility enhancing equipment
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Medically prescribed oxygen
  • Long-term care insurance
  • Cost-sharing amounts (amounts applied to your health plans out of pocket maximum amount)
  • Medicines of mineral, animal, and botanical origin if prescribed, administered, dispensed, or used in the treatment of an individual by a naturopath licensed in Washington
  • Ostomic items
  • Insulin for human use
  • Disposable devices used to deliver drugs for human use

How to Apply

You may bring all required documentation into our office and one of our staff will assist you with filling out the application. Our lobby is currently open to walk-in requests with limited lobby capacity. Appointments are encouraged to reduce wait times. To make an appointment please contact us by phone at 360-778-5050 or by email at assessor@co.whatcom.wa.us.

You may also apply through the mail by completing an application and sending it along with all required documentation to our office. Mailed in applications can be sent to:

Whatcom County Assessor's Office
311 Grand Ave Suite 106
Bellingham, WA 98225

Late Filing and Refunds

If you feel you would have met the qualifications of the program in previous years but were unaware of the program, you may file an application for each year you would have qualified. You need to meet the required qualifications that were set in place for each year you are applying. You must file an application within 3 years of the date the taxes were due to receive a refund for excess taxes already paid.

For example: to receive a refund of the excess taxes paid on your 2019 property taxes you would need to file the application prior to April 30, 2022 to receive the full year's exemption, and by October 31, 2022 to receive ½ year's exemption. Any application for the 2019 property taxes filed after October 31, 2022 would be denied a refund.

When your application and required documentation is filed for previous years, you must use the income from the same year as you would have if you had filed your application on time. For example, you would use 2018 income for a 2019 application to receive the exemption towards the 2019 taxes.

Renewing the Exemption or Changes in Circumstances

After approval, you may remain on the program for up to six years, but you must complete a renewal application or a change in status form if there are any changes that would affect the exemption. Some examples include:

  • The Assessor's Office requests to verify your income (periodically required)
  • Your income changes from what was originally reported and would change the level of the exemption
  • You sell your home or move to a different residence
  • Your home is no longer your primary residence (where you live for more than six months of each calendar year)
  • Change in ownership
  • Marriage

Appeal Process

The County Assessor must tell you if your application is denied. You may appeal the Assessor's decision to the County Board of Equalization. The County Board of Equalization must receive your appeal by July 1 or within 30 days of when the denial notice was mailed, whichever date is later.

Questions?

For any questions please contact us by calling 360-778-5050 or emailing assessor@co.whatcom.wa.us.

Forms and Links