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While the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit may offer homeowners over the age of 65 a substantial tax credit on state income tax, those 60 and over may benefit from a different type of program designed to help lessen the burden of local property tax payments. The program is known as the Senior Citizen Property Tax Work-Off Abatement Program.

The tax work-off abatement law allows a city or town to establish a program giving property owners 60 or older the opportunity to volunteer services to the city or town in exchange for a reduction in property tax of up to $1,000. (The law was recently amended to increase the maximum amount of the reduction from $750 to $1,000. A community may choose a lower amount, however.)

The city or town, not the state, administers the program, keeping track of hours worked and crediting for each hour worked an amount not to exceed the minimum wage, currently $8 per hour.

Regulations for the program vary from community to community. Income limits for eligibility may vary, for instance, and some communities may set a ceiling on the program that is less than the $1,000 maximum allowed under state law.

Participants may be asked to do anything from painting fire hydrants to answering phones to stacking books in the local library. In return, they receive a record of their work which is also sent to the local assessor in order to reduce the volunteer's property tax bill. The value of the work is not considered to be wages and therefore is not taxable.

To see if your community participates in the tax work-off program, contact your local council on aging, senior center, or assessor. Some communities report waiting lists, so don't delay in contacting local officials to see if the program is available in your community.

A recent news story presents the experience of one Western Massachusetts community that recently adopted this program.

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