Jackson Co. sees a drop in major tax exemption program

JACKSON COUNTY, MS (WLOX) - Mark and Cherie Clifford recently inherited a home in Jackson County and went to the tax assessor's office Tuesday to get a tax break.

"When you really have to pay your own bills, you realize things like that," Cherie Clifford said.

They're just in time because the Homestead Exemption deadline is three days away. The Cliffords said about $700 was cut from their property tax bill.

"It is a big savings."

County Tax Assessor Benny Goff said Homestead Exemption can save homeowners up to 40 percent.

"In our heyday, we were doing 4500. And this year, I think we have done 29."

Goff began to see the drop after Hurricane Katrina. He said he blames the low numbers on pricey insurance costs and the tough economy. He said a lot of people just aren't investing anymore in the American dream of owning a home.

"Properties are just not seeing, so they are not changing homestead," Goff said. "I talked to a realtor the other day, and he said if they tell you they are moving more than than two[homes] a month, then they're probably fibbing. It is just really, really slow right now."

Goff said the decrease also has a lot to do with homeowners who may not know they need to re-file due to certain qualification changes.

"What that means is a description change, a death or a divorce; you change the deed for a reason. We send cards out about that, but we are not the mail service, so people may not always get them."

Goff said residents filling for the first time need to bring several pieces of important information including: a recorded copy of the warranty deed, a current car tag, social security numbers, purchase price of home/land, and mobile home registration. The Homestead Exemption also ensures that the first $75,000 of seniors' (65 or over) appraised property value isn't taxed.

Jackson County residents have two locations to file or update: The Fairgrounds on Short Cut Road in Pascagoula or the county's Ocean Springs office on North Washington Avenue. For more information, call the Tax Assessor's Office at (228) 769-3070.

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