Summer officially ended this week. Welcome to fall! It is a great time of the year; especially here on Cape Cod. An excellent way to enjoy a beautiful fall day with an emphasis on West Barnstable is via the annual “West Barnstable Cranberry Express”. This special train ride takes place on Sunday afternoon October 21st. You can take a scenic ride from West Barnstable to the upper cape and back. The West Barnstable Civic Association and the Cape Cod Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society are sponsors. Tickets are already available from both groups.
Fall is also the season of elections and taxes. This year voting is very important. The deadline to register is October 17th. However, it is just as important for our residents that you all understand the opportunity generally provided you via certain votes the Town Council will consider during this fall. Fall is also a very good time to verify your eligibility for a FY 2013 residential property tax exemption. This action can result in lower town property tax payments for you.
For those property owners who maintain their primary residence in the Town of Barnstable, the Town Council generally votes in the fall to use the option of enacting a residential exemption of 20% of the average total residential value. This exemption is enacted for one fiscal year only and must be voted on every fiscal year by the Town Council. We as town councilors must annually vote both to accept the clause and to set the designated percentage of property that is exempt.
A primary residence is defined as being owned and occupied year-round by the applicant and by filing federal and state tax returns showing the property as the primary residence for the qualifying fiscal year. The date of qualification is the first of January every year for the coming fiscal year. To qualify for the fiscal year 2013, the property owner must be a full-time resident, owning the property as of January 1, 2012. You can prove it is your primary residence by submitting a redacted version of the front page of your calendar year 2011 tax return. That is the easiest manner. There are other ways. Contact the Assessing Division if you need help to qualify.
The exemption can be granted on the homeowner’s permanent domicile only. It is a rule of law that a person has only one domicile, though they may have several residences. Domicile defined consists of three elements; actual physical presence; at a fixed dwelling; with the intention to remain permanently. Each element must be satisfied to claim domicile.
Owners have up to three months from the mailing of the actual tax bill to apply for the exemption for each tax year. That generally means to qualify for the exemption this year; you must prove your residency before the end of March 2013. Qualifying for the residential exemption does not disqualify taxpayers from receiving other exemptions, such as the Elderly or Veteran’s exemptions.
Of particular note is the West Barnstable Fire District residents also generally get an additional residential exemption. The Prudential Committee usually votes to give their fire district residents a residential exemption on the West Barnstable Fire District property taxes. Stay tuned as that vote will also take place this fall. Not all fire districts do this for their residents.