By Hayley Kappes
Killeen Daily Herald
Veterans living with service-related physical and mental disabilities are now eligible for total homestead property tax exemptions through a state tax code amendment.
House Bill 3613 added a section to the tax code that requires an exemption of the total appraised value of veterans' residences if they receive all their compensation from the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs due to a 100 percent disability rating, or the VA classifies the person as unemployable.
State Rep. Jimmie Don Aycock, R-Killeen, filed a similar bill to the amendment at the beginning of the legislative session, but it did not move out of committee.
Aycock then signed on a similar bill authored by State Rep. Kino Flores, R-Mission, but it met opposition in the House, and an exchange started, according to Aycock.
"When democrats began the five-day filibuster, it became obvious that bill was going to die," Aycock said.
State Rep. John Otto, R-Dayton, salvaged Aycock and Flores' floundered bill.
Otto had a separate tax bill going through Senate discussions and added the disabled veteran homestead exemption to the bill as a senate amendment.
Aycock said the amendment met no opposition when it returned to the House for approval.
The amendment also slightly changed the percentage rates of veteran disability for those who qualify for partial homestead tax exemptions.
The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs determines the percentage of which a veteran is disabled.
"We need to find a way to take care of our folks who come back unable to work," said State Rep. Ralph Sheffield, R-Temple, who co-authored Aycock's original bill. "It might have an effect on budget, but it's something we just needed to do to help those 100 percent disabled."
Marvin Hahn, chief appraiser of Bell County's Tax Appraisal District, said his organization will have a better understanding about how the 100 percent tax exemption will affect taxing entities in September after more applications are turned in.
Tax statements go out Oct. 1, and those who are eligible for the 100 percent exemption are encouraged to apply soon. Hahn said 10,362 county residents receive some form of homestead tax break based on a service-related disability.
Around 950 of those residents would qualify for the total exemption, according to the tax district's current records. Hahn said those veterans received a letter in the mail informing them of their eligibility, which included an application from the VA.
"I don't think it's going to be a budget breaker for the entities who receive property tax revenue," Hahn said. "The impact is not going to be quite as great as we initially thought it was going to be."
Contact Hayley Kappes at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7559.