How The Harris County Tax Deferral Program Protects Seniors/Disabled From Delinquent Property Taxes
Every Harris County homeowner is aware of the significance of January 31st…
The last day to pay Harris County property taxes.
For some, especially seniors and those who are disabled, this can be stressful times. Failing to pay your property taxes on time could result in penalties and interest which only makes things even harder.
One option that Harris County seniors and people with disabilities have is something called a Tax Deferral. The tax deferral is a program that helps seniors and individuals with disabilities remain in their home, despite past due property taxes.
In this article we will elaborate more on the Harris County Tax Deferral as well as these topics:
- Who qualifies for the tax deferral?
- How to apply
- Who should be cautious about applying for this program
- Family members who can benefit from this program
- What happens if you leave your home or pass away
- What Is A Harris County Tax Deferral?
- How Does A Tax Deferral Work?
- Who Can Qualify For A Harris County Tax Deferral?
- When Should I Apply For A Tax Deferral?
- How Do You Apply For A Tax Deferral?
- If Your House Is Under Mortgage…
- What Happens If I Leave My House That Has A Tax Deferral
What Is A Harris County Tax Deferral?
This is a program that helps both seniors and those with disabilities remain in their homes despite being behind on their property taxes.
The program is administered by the Harris County Appraisal District (HCAD).
How Does A Tax Deferral Work?
Once you are granted a tax deferral the Harris County Appraisal District will stop any future bills for delinquent property taxes from coming to your mailbox.
HCAD will stop these bills, however, the taxes and interest owed will not go away on the property. Eventually someone will have to pay these back taxes.
You can continue to avoid these taxes as long as you live in the home, but once you move or die the new owner will have to pay all of the taxes and interest.
The ONE Family Member Who Is Exempt From Paying Taxes…
If the homeowner dies typically the taxes must be paid by the next person who lives in the home. The only family member who is exempt from this rule would be the surviving spouse of the deceased.
The following needs to happen in order for the deferral to be passed to the living spouse:
- Spouse is 55 or older
- They own the home
- Spouse was living in the home during the time of death
Again each of the above must be true for the spouse to receive the deferral.
Who Can Qualify For A Harris County Tax Deferral?
Two types of homeowners can apply for the Harris County Tax Deferral:
- Anyone who 65 or older (does not need to be disabled)
- Someone with a legal disability
The HCAD considers a person to be disabled if “he or she is under disability for purposes of payment of disability insurance benefits under Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance.
For more information about qualification for the Tax Deferral you can contact HCAD at 713.274.8000.
When Should I Apply For A Tax Deferral?
According to HCAD, you should consider applying if you are in any of these situations:
- Need to postpone the collection of taxes
- Stop a lawsuit to collect delinquent taxes
- Prevent a foreclosure sale due to a tax lien
The idea of postponing your taxes can be beneficial, but be advised that there are some drawbacks. I will talk about one related to mortgages later in the article.
How Do You Apply For A Tax Deferral?
Apply for the tax deferral involves obtaining a copy and then mailing it to the Harris County Appraisal District, Exemption Center.
Obtaining A Tax Deferral Form
To apply for the Harris County Tax Deferral you must complete the Tax Deferral Affidavit Over-65 Homestead, Disabled Homeowner or Disabled Veteran form.
Note: If the link above is broken visit the HCAD website, and then scroll down to the Affidavits section. Once there look for 33.06 Tax Deferral Affidavit for Over-65 or Disabled Homeowner.
If you do not have access to a computer you call 713.957.7800 and have a form mailed to you. If you’re located near 290, you can swing by the appraisal district office at 13013 NW Freeway, Houston, TX 77040 to get a paper copy.
You are also encouraged to fill out the form completely and then sign it in front of a Notary Public. For more information about this process, again you can call the appraisal district at 713.957.7800.
Mailing The Form To The Exemption Center
Once your tax deferral form is completed you must mail it to:
Harris County Appraisal District, Exemption Center
P.O. Box 922012
Houston, TX 77292-2012
Note: Stopping a pending sale this is a bit more complicated, therefore you should contact the appraisal district at 713.957.7800.
If Your House Is Under Mortgage…
You NEED to talk to your mortgage company before applying for a tax deferral.
Here is why…
Deferring your taxes could lead to you defaulting on your mortgage. While Harris County may allow tax deferrals, your mortgage company may not.
Another action a mortgage company can take is to pay your owed taxes and then increase your mortgage or demand payment in full.
The bottom line is if you are paying a house note, you definitely need to speak to your mortgage company before going forward with a tax deferral.
What Happens If I Leave My House That Has A Tax Deferral
A few different things can happen:
If you sell your home the title company will likely take the amount of taxes you owe out of your profits.
Should you deed your home to another family member, then they would be responsible for the owed taxes.
If you are married and you die, the deferral could potentially be passed to the surviving spouse. They would need to be 55 years or older, married to you, and living in the home at the time of your death. As long as the spouse lives in the home they would not be responsible for taxes.
Note: The spouse is the only person that can have the deferral passed to them.
I just have to be clear about this…
I AM NOT A TAX ATTORNEY.
Use this guide as a way to educate yourself on the Harris County Tax Deferral process. There are links throughout this article that take you to the sources of all the information found in this article. Use them to do your research.
The Harris County Appraisal District is the best resource for answering any tax deferral questions so definitely contact them at 713.957.7800.
Now that I’ve relieved myself of all legal responsibilities here are my final thoughts.
The idea of postponing your taxes could be a great help to you, especially if you cannot pay the property taxes you owe right now. Keep in mind that the appraisal district is merely postponing those taxes. Eventually someone (the new buyer, your son or daughter, etc) will have to pay Harris County those past due property taxes.
Whatever you ultimately decide, its best to talk this out with others. This could be your lawyer, closest family member, Harris County Appraisal District or mortgage company. Talking it over with these people will ensure that your are making the very best decision.
Nick Bryant is a Counselor with 11 years of experience working in community health. He enjoys concerts, walks with the doggo and wife, mocking Dallas Cowboy fans, and sharing community resources. Jump on the Houston Case Managers email list to receive weekly community resource guides delivered directly to your inbox.