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File your property taxes — you might be pleasantly surprised

When it comes to taxes, everyone fixates on that April 15 deadline. And while you do need to make sure that you get your federal and state income taxes in by that date, it’s easy to neglect filing your property taxes — especially if you assume you’re not eligible for a refund. That would be a shame, because thousands of Minnesota families might be throwing away money they’ve earned.

The legislature made great progress in the last year and a half on one of our top priorities: reining in rising property taxes. We were reminded this month of that progress. The nonpartisan House Research Department issued a report that stated property taxes after refunds will drop by $49 million in 2014, the first decrease since 2002.

The most significant decrease will be seen by homeowners. Overall, homeowner property taxes are decreasing by $171 million in 2014, a 5.2 percent decrease from 2013.

This represents a considerable shift. Beginning in 2002, property taxes after refunds increased 84 percent, from $4.4 billion in 2002 to $8 billion in 2013.

Why are property taxes going down for the first time in a decade? Because the legislature made direct property tax relief a priority. In 2013-2014, Governor Dayton and the Minnesota Legislature, in a bipartisan fashion, increased direct tax relief by $178 million ($133 million in 2013 and $45 million in 2014).

Because of our work, more than 300,000 homeowners are eligible for a refund, including an additional 100,000 who wouldn’t have been otherwise. The average Minnesotan will see their refund increase by $212.

We also reversed tax hikes to Minnesota renters, enhancing the Renter’s Credit to provide tax relief to renters, many of whom are students, seniors or disabled. Because of this, 66,000 filers will see a bigger refund and 10,000 additional renters will qualify.

So, as you can see, you might want to make sure you file your property taxes this year!

The Homeowner and Renter Property Tax Refund Program is available to homeowners with household incomes less than $105,5000 or renters with household incomes less than $57,170. Higher income limits apply if property owners or renters have dependents or are senior citizens or disabled.

The maximum refund for homeowners is $2,580 and the maximum refund for renters is $2,000.

If you have any questions, please contact the Department of Revenue at (800) 652-9094. You can check the status of your refund by calling (800) 657-3676 or by visiting the Department of Revenue’s website at revenue.state.mn.us.

Erik Simonson (DFL) is the Minnesota state representative for District 7B.

Erik Simonson

Erik Simonson, DFL-Duluth, represents District 7 in the Minnesota Senate. He may be contacted at (651) 296-4188.

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