Property Tax Relief: Where We Are And What Comes Next

Posted on 11/27/23

Tax
Scott Rothstein

With the housing market continuing to stay hot and property taxes rising (by an average of 17% statewide in 2022 and 2023). Let’s talk about what property tax pays for, how to make sure you are receiving any relief from property tax, and what the Legislature is considering for the 2024 session regarding property tax.

Where does the money go?
Property tax overwhelmingly funds local efforts, especially education. Roughly 72% of all property tax goes to fund education in the local area. The rest of our tax dollars go to fund cities, towns (1.8%), and counties (18%) for things like local hospitals, libraries and even fairs. Depending on how a locality has chosen to tax itself through special districts (7.8%), or the facilities in their region, Community Colleges are funded in part through property tax, as are special districts like fire districts, weed and pest districts. None of your property tax goes to the state. In fact, the state hasn’t levied a property tax to fill state coffers since 1969.

Property Tax Relief Programs
Wyoming Property Tax Refund Program
Here’s what to know about the Property Tax Refund Program: It is incredibly popular for the program that wasn’t well funded until two years ago, thanks in part to AARP’s support of the appropriation. Last year 9,717 citizens applied for refunds, and 8,813 refunds were approved totalling $8.2M. The average refund was $937. To apply for the refund, you need to have paid tax in a timely manner and with a receipt before. Also:

  • Applications are due the first Monday in June and refunds are issued no later than Sept. 30.
  • A household income of equal or less than 125% of the median household in your county. 
  • No assets such as bank accounts, real estate, or investments of more than $150,000 per household member. If your total property tax bill exceeds more than 10% of your total reported income, the asset limit does not apply.
  • You may exclude the value of one car for each adult household member and retirement accounts.
  • Governor’s proposed budget for ‘25-26, which would provide funds for 2023-24 tax years recommends $20M for the program.

County Option Property Tax Refund Program

  • 2022 tax year refunds - the first year in statute available in Albany, Converse, Lincoln, Sublette, and Teton Counties.
  • Similar to the statewide program
  • Each county must fund and administer the program should they wish to offer
  • Applications due by the first Monday in September.
  • Total refund from state program and county program cannot exceed the amount of taxes paid.

Veterans Property Tax Exemption Program
Here’s what to know about the Veterans Tax Exemption Program: If you are an honorably discharged veteran or the surviving spouse of a military combat veteran, you might be eligible for the Veterans Property Tax Exemption. The refund is $3,000 in assessed value against real or personal property.

  • To apply for the program, check with your county tax assessor.
  • Must have been a Wyoming resident for 3 years.
  • Application deadline is the Fourth Monday in May.
  • Governor’s proposed ‘25-26” biennium budget proposes $11.5M for the program.

County Option Property Tax Deferral Program (currently only available in Teton County)
Here’s what to know about the Property Tax Deferral Program: This allows you to defer half of your property taxes without interest. The amount deferred will have to be paid back at a later date.

  • Application deadline is Nov. 10 at your county assessor’s office.
  • You must have had the property for 10 years or longer.
  • You must be age 62 or older or handicapped
  • Principal residence has to be on less than 40 acres of land
  • This is for low-income residents.

Changes Being Considered to Wyoming’s Property Tax System
The Wyoming Legislature has spent the last two years asking how its citizens can find tax relief if they cannot pay their property tax bill. During the 2024 Legislative session, there are a number of bills coming before lawmakers to continue that conversation. Here is what lawmakers will be considering this session.

While no one likes paying property tax, it is important to remember each dollar of property tax relief is a dollar less in education, or county funding. That said, it is important that those who cannot afford their property tax have ways to stay in their homes.

2024 Legislation sponsored by Legislative Committees to be considered includes:
New Legislation - HB4 - Changes to the Property Tax Refund ProgramThe bill increases the amount of money you can make from 125% of the county’s medicine income to 175%. It also offers 6 tiers (with the percent refund reducing for each tier) to determine how much you can apply for based on income presently.
Reasons to move forward - This program is the most targeted property tax relief. Those who need it the most, get it. The bill also opens the program up to others who were on the fringe of qualifying for the program.
Possible concerns with the bill - It is a little difficult to determine the impact to schools, counties and others that depend on property tax. The tiers could add some confusion for taxpayers. Increased usage of the program could involve another budget ask by the Wyoming Revenue Department.

New Legislation - Homeowner’s Tax Exemption: The bill would exempt 25.6% of fair market value of residential real estate up to $200,000. The exemption would go to everyone in Wyoming.
Reasons to move forward - Everyone gets roughly ¼ of the value of their home exempted from tax.
Possible concerns with the bill - It would cost counties, schools, and other groups supported by property tax a total of $84.6M in 2025, and $87.1M in 2026.

New Legislation - HB52 - Property Tax - Homestead Exemption: This would offer an exemption against the value of your home depending on your age. For those 64 and under, it exempts the first $50K from the value of your home for property tax purposes. For those, 65-74, it exempts the first $100K; and for those 75 and older, it exempts the first $150K from home value.
Reasons to move the bill forward: It would offer some relief to all, though more to older adults.
Possible concerns with the bill: It does come with a fiscal note, costing the state over $88 million between now and 2030.

New Legislation - HB45 and SF 63 Property tax Exemption - Residential Structures: This would allow you to exempt all of your home's value above 5% of the amount that it was valued at a year ago.
Reasons to move the bill forward: The measure would allow for some certainty for taxpayers year-over-year.
Possible concerns with the bill: Thus far the state is not able to determine the impact financially of this measure.

New Legislation - HB103 - Property Tax - assessment ratio for residential: In short, right now everyone in Wyoming pays 9.5% as a property tax rate. This bill would change that to 8.3%. it would require a constitutional amendment to be instituted.
Reasons to move the bill forward - Allred (the bill's sponsor) has decided to change the rate, rather than work through exemptions of property value or use of a cap. It is simple and rate payers would pay less.
Reasons for concern with this bill - It would hit schools and counties hard. The Legislative Services Office suggests $41 million in losses to schools in the 2026 tax year and $42 million in 2027.

New Legislation - HB3 - Property Tax Exemption For Long Term Homeowners: If you are 65 and over and have paid property tax in Wyoming for 30 years or more, you would receive a 50% exemption on the value of your home.
Reasons to move this bill forward - Through the property tax conversation, it's clear the legislature wants to help homeowners who bought a house years ago, paid for it, and are now struggling on a fixed income after their working years. This may do that.
Possible concerns with the bill - It would cost schools, counties, and other groups supported by property tax $10.6M in 2025, and $11.3M in 2026.

New Legislation - HB45 - Property Tax Inflation Cap
This would cap the amount of increase you could have on your home’s value each year. In other words, your home’s taxable value could never rise by more than 5% versus what it was valued at a year ago.
Reasons to move this bill forward - The bill offers a level of certainty for homeowners who have been seeing double-digit percentage increases in the amount of property tax they are paying over the last four years.
Possible Reasons of concern for the bill - This would reduce revenue to those who rely on property tax. It’s difficult to see right now, but the Legislative Service Office suggests a 5% cap on property tax between 1993-2021 would have cost the state $3.88 billion. There is a concern by the Legislative Service Office that this may take a constitutional amendment to implement. There are also concerns from cities and towns that if property values decrease, followed by an increase, the cap may limit the amount of services an area can offer its citizens.

New Legislation - HB18 - Property Tax Inflation Cap
Reasons to move this bill forward - Once again, this offers certainty for homeowners in terms of what they will pay next year. This bill does not allow the property tax to rise by more than the rate of inflation, using the consumer price index. There is a hard cap at 5% in the bill of 5%, and inflation rates in 2021 and 2022 were between 6-7%. Generally speaking, those rates have generally hovered between 0.5-2%.
Possible Concerns with the bill: Tying property tax to low rates of increase would result in losses of revenue to schools and counties. The Legislative Service Office suggests (based on 2025 tax year estimates for a 2.31% inflation through CPI, the bill would decrease residential property tax by $4.7 million in 2025 and $11 million in 2027.

SF54 - Homeowners Tax Exemption: This bill would exempt 25.6% of the value of real estate, up to the first $200,000 against your property taxes.
Reasons to move the bill forward - The bill seeks to lower residential property tax and would certainly do that.
Possible concerns with the bill - The flip side is it would limit money coming to schools and other taxing entities such as counties and special districts to the tune of $53 million to the school foundation program in 2026 and $54.7 million in 2027.

Non-Legislative Committee sponsored property tax efforts
While there are a few bills that have received the blessing of Legislative committees, there are a few other proposals that may be considered this winter.

“The People’s Initiative to Limit Property Tax in Wyoming through a Homeowner’s Exemption”
While the Initiative isn’t necessarily a legislative effort, but a statewide ballot initiative. If voters approved, a homeowner could deduct a full 50% of their home’s assessed value from their property tax. For the initiative to make the ballot, there need to be 29,730 petition signatures before Feb. 12, 2024.
Reasons to move the effort forward: Your property tax would be cut by half.
Possible concerns with the bill:  Your schools, community college, counties, and special districts would see half their funding dry up. This may lead to the state needing to backfill these organizations, one lawmaker estimated this could cost the state’s general fund over $200 million per year.

Changing the State’s Property Tax System’s basis from market value to acquisition value
In short, this change would mean you no longer pay your property tax based on what you could get if you sold your home. Instead, you would base your tax on what it cost to originally buy your home, plus a few percentage points each year. This concept was brought before the Revenue Committee, which chose not to make it a committee bill, but it will likely re-appear in the 2024 Legislative Session.
Reasons to move this effort forward: For some, this would be a dramatic drop in property taxes and offer some stability in what citizens would pay year-over-year.
Possible concerns with the bill:  Consultants told the Revenue Committee this summer that only one state (California) has such a system and it has been recognized as creating huge inequity among taxpayers. In other words, two people with similar homes could be taxed much differently, depending on when they bought that home. Idaho tried to move to this style of taxation 30 years ago and decided it was too tough to implement. Wyoming would also have to be a disclosure state, which means the price you paid for your home would be public record. It also seems there are concerns regarding the constitutionality of such a move, according to the Legislative Service Office.

Property Tax Wonk? Keep reading these reports and sleep well
The basics of Property Tax

This story is provided by AARP Wyoming. Visit the AARP Wyoming page for more news, events, and programs affecting retirement, health care, and more.

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