Town Seeks Reasons for Decline in Elderly Tax Relief Program Participation


Surmising that fewer elderly and disabled New Canaan homeowners are taking advantage of a tax relief program—at least in part—because they don’t know about it, town officials are trying to spread the word while calling for feedback from those who may qualify (see form below).

Participants in New Canaan’s Tax Relief for the Elderly or Disabled program dropped from 137 in fiscal year 2008 to 62 in fiscal year 2013, according to data presented by the Town Council at its regular meeting Tuesday.

Penny Young, co-chair of the Town Council Health & Human Services Committee, said officials “probably are not engaging in a sufficient way” in educating the community. “We need to reach out in a more visible way” and make it known that “the program exists for people to keep being part of it,” Young said at the meeting, held in the Sturgess Room at the New Canaan Nature Center.

Here’s a look at program participation in recent years:

New Canaan Tax Relief for the Elderly or Disabled Program

Fiscal yearNumber of participantsCost to the town
Source: Town Council Health & Human Services Committee
*15 applicants were disqualified for exceeding the assets limits in both FY 2010 and 2011


Other possible reasons for the decline, Young said in a memo to Town Council (see it here), include that some residents may view the program as a threat to their own self-sufficiency, possess assets beyond a qualifying income that would put them out of range, or are reluctant to disclose their finances. Also, the number of new residents who qualify for the program may not be keeping pace with those recently deceased, officials say.

One basic qualification for the program—read through all of them here—is that participants must have turned 65 by Dec. 31 of the prior year, reside in New Canaan and their adjusted gross income (plus Social Security or any tax-free income) must come to $60,000 or less. Maximum financial assets are set at $350,000 for singles and $450,000 for couples.

To help town officials understand better a perceived lack of participation in the program, if you think you may qualify, please consider filling out this form—you have the option to remain anonymous if you choose (article continues below):

The committee also is recommending that New Canaan re-institute a separate program that allows property owners to defer their tax payments.

Councilman John Engel said his take was that many New Canaanites who may find a tax deferral program useful do not put in for it because they fear a lien would be placed against their home. Officials at the meeting said that would be done, by law, if a tax payment is deferred for a full year, and added that residents interested in a tax deferment program should know that not only the lump sum of what’s deferred would be due at some point, whether that’s one or two years or 10 years, but also interest on that.

Engel said it may still behoove some residents to take advantage of the program at a low interest rate for, say, six months.

“Do they want this type of program in New Canaan? Is there demand for it? We don’t know,” Engel said.

More details of the proposed deferment program can be found on the last two pages of Young’s memo here.

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