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File by March 1 for homestead exemptions
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For anyone who hasn’t already applied for a homestead exemption, the deadline for filing for the 2008 tax year is March 1.

For Bryan County residents ages 65 and older, that means a $50,000 exemption on county, city and school board ad valorem taxes. Residents under the age of 65 are eligible for an exemption of $30,000 on county ad valorem taxes.

Bryan County Tax Commissioner Debbie Newman said residents are actually eligible to file any time during the year.

"We always have applications available. But to be eligible this year, you do have to apply by March 1," she said. "The county portion of the homestead exemption was added last year for residents. For residents ages 65 and older, the school board ad valorem already had an exemption of $20,000 prior to 2007, but last year it also went up to $50,000."

Last year, 5,856 residents filed exemptions, which saved taxpayers $1,147,185 on the county ad valorem and $666,875 on the school board ad valorem.

"I do see the number of people taking advantage of the homestead exemption growing in the coming years, with more people moving in. Hopefully everyone will apply for it that’s eligible for it," Newman said.

The new standards for homestead exemption started on Jan. 1, 2007. For residents ages 65 and older, the exemption essentially means the first $125,000 of the appraised value of their homestead property is not subject to taxes.

To qualify for the exemption, you must own and occupy your home on Jan. 1 of this tax year and it must be your primary residence, for 181 days or more. You also cannot claim a homestead exemption anywhere else.

Newman said residents have nothing to lose in filing for a homestead exemption.

"There aren’t any negatives at all," she said. "However, some of the military people aren’t eligible for the homestead exemption because they don’t claim Georgia as their state of residence. If they do claim Georgia as their state of residency, they will have to pay income taxes."

If you already applied last year, as long as the name on the property remains the same and you have not had any address changes, you are not required to reapply. However, taxpayers who have changed exemption classifications, such as turning 65 for example, must reapply.

Applications are available at the Tax Commissioners offices in Richmond Hill at 185 Richard Davis Drive and Pembroke at 11 North Courthouse Street. For more information, call 653-3880.

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