Legislation would reauthorize the Homestead Preservation Act and require more transparency in calculation of property taxes
JEFFERSON CITY, MO – Responding to outcry following spiking real estate assessments in St. Louis County and across Missouri, senator Scott Sifton, D – Affton, pre-filed legislation to protect property owners from surprise property tax increases by reauthorizing the Homestead Preservation Act and requiring St. Louis County to be more transparent in its calculation of property tax assessments.
“When a county decides the value of a person’s property, it should be done in a fair, transparent and consistent way in order to avoid surprise tax increases,” Sen. Sifton said. “My legislation will help to bring transparency to a complicated process and protect vulnerable seniors, living on fixed incomes, who simply cannot keep up with higher tax bills caused by spiking assessments.”
The Missouri Homestead Preservation Act would provide a property tax credit for qualified senior citizens and Missourians with disabilities whose property taxes increase up to 2.5 percent in a non-reassessment year or 5 percent in a reassessment year. Missouri previously offered the credit from 2005 until it expired in 2010. Senator Sifton’s legislation would reauthorize the Homestead Preservation Act beginning in the 2021 tax year.
The bill would also require property tax assessment notifications in St. Louis County to include information regarding the assessment method and computation of value for such property and, for properties valued using sales of comparable properties, a list of such comparable properties and the address or location and purchase prices from sales that the assessor used in determining the assessed valuation of the owner’s property.
Finally, Sen. Sifton’s legislation increases the amount of money a property owner can recoup if their appeal to the State Tax Commission is successful. Current law allows certain counties and St. Louis City to reimburse taxpayers who successfully appeal a property tax assessment to the State Tax Commission for appraisal costs, attorney fees and court costs, with reimbursements limited to $1,000 for residential appeals and $4,000 for non-residential appeals.
Senator Sifton’s legislation would increase limits for St. Louis County to $6,000 for residential appeals and up to $10,000 for other non-residential appeals. Although Sen. Sifton is an attorney, he does not handle cases before the St. Louis County Board of Equalization or the State Tax Commission.
“The idea is to protect the taxpayer from the costs of appealing to the State Tax Commission and discourage the assessor’s office from trying to win by attrition,” Sen. Sifton explained. “No taxpayer should have to give up just because of the cost of proving they’re right. The lawyers and expert witnesses get paid either way – but when the assessor is wrong, the taxpayer shouldn’t be the one stuck with the tab for legal fees.”
Legislators began pre-filing bills on Dec. 2 for consideration during the 2020 legislative session. Lawmakers return to the State Capitol on Jan. 8 for the start of the 2020 legislative session.
For more information on Sen. Sifton, visit his official Missouri Senate website at www.senate.mo.gov/sifton