Kokua Line
June Watanabe

Age not only
for tax credit

Question: In a government office where information is provided to the public, shouldn't it be taught that it is better to stay silent than give the wrong information? For example, at the Real Property Assessment Division of Honolulu, a woman tells people that a person reaching the age of 75 before June 30, 2005, is not qualified yet to apply for exemption for low-income seniors for the tax year 2006-2007. She says a 2004 income tax return is needed. That is erroneous because the 2004 return is to fulfill the income requirement and has nothing to do with the age requirement of 75 on or before June 30 of the year preceding the tax year for which the claim is made.

Answer: This appears to be a matter of a misunderstanding or a miscommunication.

Your complaint is a good vehicle to explain what's needed to claim the exemption for low-income seniors.

Unlike other exemptions that may simply be based on age, you need to meet three criteria in order to qualify for the low-income senior exemption, explained Gary Kurokawa, administrator of the Real Property Assessment Division:

You must own and occupy your home as the principal residence; you must be 75 years or older; and your total household income cannot exceed the low-income limits established by the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Just being 75 doesn't qualify you for the exemption, Kurokawa said.

"When people call and say, 'I'm 75 and I qualify,' we say, 'No, you also need your income tax return,' because we need to verify income levels to the HUD standards," Kurokawa said.

There are exemptions that are simply age-based, "where you just have to own and occupy (your home) and you just have to be of that age," he said. "But for this one, you need to prove your income level."

Kurokawa said yesterday that his office was being "inundated" with questions from people trying to apply for this exemption. "It's not something that's really easy (to qualify for) because you need the income (qualification)," he said.

Friday is the deadline to apply for real property tax exemptions.

Q: I've been a resident of the United States for more than 10 years, but I only got my green card recently. What kind of benefits will I get when I retire? Do they start giving me credits when I started working or only after I got my green card?

A: You should pose that question directly to the Social Security Administration by calling the toll-free number 1-800-772-1213.

You can also find out how much you can expect to receive upon retirement by requesting a copy of your Social Security statement. Call the same number.

You must have worked and paid Social Security taxes for at least 10 years for a total of 40 credits before you can qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.

Federal law allows payment of Social Security benefits to noncitizens in the United States only if they can prove they are residing lawfully in the country.


See the Columnists section for some past articles.

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