Senior Citizen and Disabled Persons Exemption

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

Eligibility Requirements

There are four eligibility requirements you must meet to be eligible for the program.

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 OR 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 nine months in a calendar year. For example, you must be living in your home more than nine months in 2019 to receive an exemption on your 2020 property tax.

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 previous years (property tax due in 2017 – 2019) your 2016 – 2018 income cannot exceed $40,000.

Year Property Taxes DueQualifying YearDisposable Income Limit
20212020$42,043
20202019$42,043
20192018$40,000
20182017$40,000
20172016$40,000


Disposable Income and Allowable Deductions

Disposable Income

Disposable income is calculated differently than adjusted gross income for federal income taxes. Disposable income includes all 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 (IRA’s)
  • 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.

Allowable Deductions from Income

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.

How to Apply

You may bring all required documentation into our office and one of our staff will gladly assist you with filling out the application. We are currently accepting appointments for in office visits. Please contact us by phone at 360-778-5050 or by email at assessor@co.whatcom.wa.us to make an appointment.

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 2017 property taxes you would need to file the application prior to April 30, 2020 to receive the full year’s exemption, and by October 30, 2020 to receive 1/2 year’s exemption. Any application for the 2017 property taxes filed after October 30, 2020 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 2016 income for a 2017 application to receive the exemption from the 2017 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 9 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.

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