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CONTACT: Nick Smith

February 3, 2012





Bill Assures Relief for Low-Income Seniors Facing Unexpected Tax Bills


SALEM— House Republicans today announced support for a bipartisan measure assuring tax relief for seniors with reverse mortgages. They say the legislation will help seniors facing unexpected tax bills due to 2011 changes to the Oregon Senior Property Tax Deferral Program. 


“As California and other states discontinue their senior property tax deferral programs, we’ve sustained ours by ensuring only the most vulnerable Oregonians qualify,” said Rep. Vicki Berger (R-Salem), Co-Chair of the House Revenue Committee. “We’re taking action to keep this program alive while helping seniors who are now receiving property tax bills they didn’t expect and can’t afford.”


The 2011 Legislature reduced eligibility for the Senior Property Tax Deferral Program after state officials warned legislators the program would soon be insolvent. Changes were also prompted by the discovery that higher-income seniors were using the program to defer their property taxes, and the increasing use of reverse mortgages would make it difficult for many tax deferrals to be repaid. Unaware of changes to the program, many seniors with reverse mortgages were surprised to learn they no longer qualified for the program.


The state has secured short-term financing to help sustain the program and to provide temporary relief to seniors with reverse mortgages.  Rep. Berger said the financing serves as a two-year bridge to keep the program functioning until the housing market recovers.


“This is a short-term fix that will help the nearly 2,000 seniors who were already in the program,” Rep. Berger said. “In the future, it’s important for the Legislature to assure this program’s solvency and not to divert these funds for other purposes. The Senior Property Tax Deferral Program should continue to be available for seniors who really need help.”


The solution is contained in amendments to HB 4039, which is expected to be approved by the House Revenue Committee next week. The bill includes a provision requiring financial institutions to inform seniors considering reverse mortgages that they’d be ineligible for the tax deferral program in the future.