By Ellen Steinberg and Peter Humphreys
With less than two weeks to go, the New Jersey State Treasurer’s office has extended the filing deadline for 2019 Senior Freeze applications from Nov. 2, 2020 to Dec. 31, 2020. This is a welcome development because many seniors were scrambling to meet the original date in order to keep their property tax relief.
Senior Freeze is the property tax relief program that sends a refund check to seniors for property tax payments they have already made.
The program was, well, “frozen” earlier in the year as part of Gov. Phil Murphy’s response to reduced tax revenues due to the coronavirus pandemic.
But the payments for the 2019 Senior Freeze were restored as part of the revised budget that was passed at the end of September.
A video about the Senior Freeze and all of New Jersey’s property tax relief programs is available at njseniorcouncil.com
Applications for Senior Freeze (PTR-2 Forms) were mailed out in February to those who were already in the program. The application requires a certification from the local tax office that property taxes had been paid in 2018 and 2019.
Unfortunately, by mid-March, municipal offices started shutting down and then there was the announcement in May that Senior Freeze was being defunded. It is not. People who mailed in their PTR-2 forms in late February and early March are already beginning to get their checks.
If you are unable to find your form, call the New Jersey State Senior Freeze Hotline at 1-800-882-6597 and they will mail a duplicate to you.
You will still need the certification from your local tax office. The application must be returned to the state by mail and postmarked no later than Dec. 31.
If you have never filed for Senior Freeze before, you will need to complete a PTR-1 Form. The income limit for 2019 is now $91,505. Your local tax collector’s office should have the application form which comes in a blue booklet.
The booklet is long, but the form itself is fairly straightforward and easy to fill out.
The tricky part is that you also need to get a certification from the local tax collector’s office confirming you paid your 2018 and 2019 property tax payment.
With limited hours of office opening and limited staff, it may be harder to get this form certified.
So how do you qualify for this program?
First, you must have paid your property taxes in full for 2018 and 2019.
Second, you must have lived in New Jersey since Dec. 31, 2008 and lived in your home since Dec. 31, 2015.
You have to have turned 65 during 2018 (not 2019) and your income must have been less than $89,013 during 2018 and less than $91,505 during 2019.
Income for these purposes, with some limited exceptions, includes pretty much all the income you have, including Social Security and IRA and 401(k) withdrawals.
This income limit is higher than in prior years and this means more people will qualify for the program. Do the math and see if you are one of them.
Many people rely on this program to stay in their home. First-time participants in this year’s program are estimated to get more than $200 back and continuing participants will, on average, receive more than $1,400.
Many long-term participants receive many thousands of dollars. This is not surprising since your freeze check is the difference between your current property taxes and the amount of your property taxes in the first year you qualified for the program.
Many seniors were devastated when the Senior Freeze program was put on hold. Many are still unaware the program has been restored and now they have until Dec. 31 to get their application in.
This is your money that is being returned to you and you are entitled to it. But the application has to be postmarked by Dec. 31. Make sure you don’t miss out.
Peter Humphreys is a New Jersey attorney. Ellen Steinberg is the director of the Senior Citizens Council. The Senior Citizens Council is a nonprofit organization founded 50 years ago to assist older adults.