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News Release

September 14, 2007 - Tax Commissioner Warns Seniors to be Wary of Homestead Schemes

COLUMBUS, Ohio - Ohio Tax Commissioner Richard A. Levin today

warned senior citizens to be on the look out for individuals who are attempting to charge seniors fees in order to help sign up for the homestead exemption.

“Applying for the homestead exemption is free. All you have to do is fill out a simple, one-page form,” Levin said. “We are offering meaningful property tax relief to senior citizens, and I’d hate to see it siphoned off by middle men trying to make a quick buck.”

Levin said he’s aware of at least one taxpayer in Athens County who received a letter from an accounting firm offering to fill out the homestead application form for a $60 fee. Meanwhile, at least one site on the Internet – homesteadtaxexemption.com – is offering to mail taxpayers a homestead exemption application for a $9.95 fee.

In fact, applications for the homestead exemption are free -- available for download at tax.ohio.gov or from any county auditor. Taxpayers needing help may contact their local county auditor or call the Ohio Department of Taxation’s hotline for individual taxpayers at (800) 282-1780.

Levin said it doesn’t appear to be illegal for individuals to charge a fee to help fill out a homestead exemption form. “But these schemes are troubling,” he said. “The fact is, Ohio’s county auditors are more than happy to help sign seniors up, at no charge.”

The expansion and overhaul of Ohio’s homestead exemption was a key component of the two-year state budget bill signed into law on June 30 by Governor Ted Strickland.

The changes, approved by the Ohio General Assembly, have simplified the homestead exemption and extended it an additional 550,000 homeowners.

All senior citizen homeowners and all permanently and totally disabled homeowners – regardless of income – may now use the exemption to shield $25,000 of the market value of their home from property taxes.

The deadline to sign up for the new homestead exemption in time for tax bills payable next year is Oct. 1, 2007.

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Note: Media with further questions should contact John Kohlstrand at (614) 644-3858 or Mike McKinney at (614) 466-5461.