TRURO — The town’s taxation aid committee has begun accepting applications from residents who need help paying their property taxes this year — and, working with the town’s finance office, it has streamlined the process to reduce the paperwork and effort required. The town has also adopted a new rule that can compound the available aid.
Applications for aid will be accepted through the end of January.
The committee manages both donations to and distributions from the Truro Aid to the Elderly and Disabled Taxation Fund, which offers qualified residents a reprieve of about one-quarter of their property tax bills. The committee generally has five or six applicants each year — but it could help more, according to member Jennifer Shannon.
Like other Cape Cod towns with similar programs, Truro’s fund has parameters. Applicants must be at least 65 years old as of July 1, 2022 and have a maximum income of $48,000 for individuals and $60,000 for married couples. Residents receiving federal disability aid or who are unable to work because of illness or accident also qualify.
Shannon added that there is relief available for others facing immediate financial strain, for example, because of a medical emergency, even if they are not elderly or disabled.
This year, applicants for taxation aid are required to apply for a residential exemption. This policy, enabled by state law for municipalities that choose to adopt it, reduces property taxes for year-round residents and those whose primary residence is in Truro. There are no income requirements.
Alex Lessin, the Truro finance director who also serves on the taxation aid committee, sees efficiencies here, as the program is administered by the board of assessors and the required documentation is the same as for the taxation aid application. Lessin said this new requirement ensures that residents get all the aid they’re qualified for.
Applicants do not need to qualify for the residential exemption in order to receive funding from the Elderly and Disabled Fund: “They just need to show that they’ve tried,” Lessin said.
The town has taken other extraneous paperwork off the table. For example, since an inventory of high-value possessions and investments is available on other required documents like tax returns, applicants no longer need to fill out separate forms with this information. “We’re trying to reduce the paperwork burden,” Lessin said.
Also, according to Lessin, the assessors are responsible for approving several other tax exemptions, such as those for blind people and certain categories of veterans. If people have already applied for these exemptions, they won’t have to duplicate income information paperwork to tap into the fund.
As of Nov. 28, there was $10,678.67 in the Elderly and Disabled Taxation Fund. Twenty-one Truro households had donated a total of $1,380.70 for fiscal year 2023 at that point.
The goal is to give out at least half of the fund every fiscal year, and keep the rest in reserve, Lessin said.
Applications for aid from the fund are available at town hall, the Truro Public Library, the community center, and online. All information gathered by the committee is kept confidential. The third member of the group, in addition to Shannon and Lessin, is Barbara B. Wood.
Both Lessin and Shannon said that the only reason applicants would be rejected is if they did not meet income eligibility requirements. “Generally speaking, it’s because they’re over the income qualification,” said Lessin, “or because they’re unable to furnish any kind of evidence of income.”
Both Wellfleet and Eastham offer similar aid programs. In Wellfleet, applications for fiscal 2023 were due in July and are not yet open for next year. Residents over 55 with an income below $42,000 if single or below $55,000 if married were eligible. In Eastham, applicants must be over 55 or disabled, with an income under $35,000 if single or under $45,000 if married.
While these town taxation aid committees provide assistance only to elderly and disabled residents within income limits, there are other programs available to help other residents with their taxes. The Community Action Committee of Cape Cod & Islands, a branch of the Mass. Association for Community Action, offers help accessing services and benefits to all Cape residents who earn less than $57,000.
The Truro Taxation Aid Committee is also looking to fill a vacancy. The ideal candidate would be a certified public accountant with tax preparation experience, Lessin said, although any applicant will be considered.