No other refundable tax credit equals the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit for putting money into the wallets of average taxpayers 65 and older. In tax year 2009, more than 77,000 senior taxpayers who were either homeowners or renters received credits of nearly $60 million.
Yet it is safe to say that many eligible taxpayers have never heard of the credit. If you are reading this and have older relatives or friends who might benefit, pass on the word. The maximum credit, after all, is worth $970 in the coming tax year.
The Department of Revenue has just released the rules and regulations for the Senior Circuit Breaker Tax Credit in tax year 2010. The credit is based on the actual property tax or rent paid by the eligible taxpayer who is either living in their own home or paying rent.
A taxpayer's total income may not exceed $51,000 for a single individual; $64,000 for a head of household; or $77,000 for married couples filing a joint return. The assessed valuation of a residence may not exceed $764,000. Many taxpayers 65 and over fall within these limits.
The credit is equal to the amount by which the taxpayer's property tax payments in the current tax year, including water and sewer charges but excluding any abatement or exemption, exceeds 10 percent of the taxpayer's total income.
The credit also works for renters. It is equal to the amount by which 25 percent of the rent actually paid during the taxable year exceeds 10 percent of the taxpayer's total income, with the credit capped at $970.
How does this credit work in practice? Take the example of a married couple with an annual income of $50,000 and $6,000 in property tax and water and sewer payments for their home. Ten percent of their income is $5,000; their combined tax bills are $6,000; the difference is $1,000; so they qualify for the maximum credit of $970.
Or, in the case of renters, take the example of a married couple with an annual income of $25,000 who pay $12,000 annually in rent. Ten percent of their income is $2,500, which is less than 25 percent of their rent, which equals $3,000, so they receive a $500 tax credit.
Again, this is a refundable tax credit. Let's say that you don't owe any state income tax. If you qualify for the circuit breaker tax credit, the state will cut you a check for up to $970. Or, let's say you owe $500 in taxes and have qualified for the maximum credit. The state will then send you a check for $470.
Finally, if you find yourself eligible, you can go back three tax years and claim the credit retroactively. This credit is definitely worth checking out.