Homestead Exemption Filings Begin

Flora Shukis has been a homeowner for nearly 35 years.

"I like to live in my own home," she said.

When her husband passed away a few years ago, Flora's daughter took responsibility of her finances.

"She has to ask me something that she doesn't know and she calls me up on the phone and says mom about this and this and I say OK," Flora said.

One of the forms Flora's daughter fills out annually is for the Nebraska Homestead Exemption.

The program helps ease the burden of property taxes on elderly and lower income homeowners.

"There are income limits for the program so obviously this isn't aimed at Warren Buffet and so if your income level is below a certain amount, depending on what category you fit in you're eligible for full exemption," Douglas County Chief Deputy Assessor Mike Goodwillie said.

The form takes only a few minutes to fill out.

They were sent out by mail but the assessor's office has people on hand to help fill out applications.

Bob Robles of the Douglas County Assessor's Office said there are three major changes this year.

Medical expenses are now deductible.

"It helps them calculate what their out-of-pocket medical expenses is what would constitute that and if they have any questions they're welcome to give us a call. and we can walk through that with them to see if there's any additional medical expenses that may qualify," he said.

There's a deduction for travel expenses.

"The biggest one is mileage," Robles said. "A lot of them are traveling further now to specialists and most of them fail to include that in their deductions."

And be sure to check the smaller print. Applicants must now verify their citizenship status.

"To certify if you are a citizen or a qualified citizen and that's a major one that most of the are missing at this point," Robles said.

And for some, the benefits are worth a few minutes.

"If you are 100% eligible for exemption...yeah you might owe nothing," Goodwillie said.

That property tax help may be all it takes for Flora to enjoy what she's worked so hard for.

"I'm going to stay in my home as much as I can," she said.

The assessor's office includes prescription discount cards in the packets they mail out for applying for the homestead exemption.

The cards can help pay prescriptions that are not covered by insurance.

The cards are available to everyone.

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