PHOENIX - Good news for homeowners: You're not going to lose your state rebate of up to $600 a year if you forget to check your mail.
Gov. Jan Brewer has signed legislation repealing a year-old law that would have required homeowners to return a postcard to the county assessor avowing that they actually live at a property in order to get the state rebate.
Instead, lawmakers are directing assessors to focus their attention on properties where there is some reason to believe the owners do not qualify for the special financial relief.
Arizona law imposes the same property taxes on all residential property. But for years, lawmakers have tempered the costs for those who live in their own homes. The state has paid a percentage of what those homeowners owe in primary taxes for public schools.
Right now that rebate is 40 percent, up to $600 a year.
Before last year, the rebate was pretty much automatic for homeowners, with the presumption that a property owner lived at the address. The burden was on the property owner to voluntarily report that the home was instead being rented out.
Last year, though, lawmakers agreed to turn the system on its head as part of a $538 million package of tax cuts for business.
One key provision of that law will reduce the basis on which businesses compute their property taxes, potentially cutting their taxes by 10 percent by the time the package is fully implemented in 2018. Under normal circumstances, that would shift the tax burden for local governments and public schools largely onto homeowners.
To compensate for that, lawmakers agreed to increase the rebate.
But to keep costs down -and to ferret out ineligible homeowners - last year's legislation mandated that all residential property would be presumed to be rented out and, therefore, ineligible for the rebate.
To get the rebate, owners would have to sign and mail back a card swearing they live in that home, or that the house is being leased or rented to a relative. And if that affidavit was not mailed back, the property tax bill eventually sent out would not include the rebate.
Under pressure from the Arizona Association of Realtors, the law has now been repealed - in part. The revised version still has provisions designed to help catch people who cheat the system.
For example, assessors would still be required to send out a card - and demand a response - if the mailing address of the owner is different from the home's address.
Any mailing address listed for multiple homes, or appearing to be for a business, also will result in a postcard.
The changes do not clear up all the problems the 2011 law created, said Tom Farley, president of the Arizona Association of Realtors.
One issue involves "snowbirds" and other part-time Arizona residents. While they may be the only occupants of a home and not renting it out, Farley said the law does not spell out whether they, too, qualify for the rebate.
"The assessor will look at things like in what state is your driver's license issued, voter registration, things of that nature," indicators of "the place you call home," Farley said.