During this fiscal year, with a storm of taxpayer protest still thundering across the metropolitan area, one in 11 Maryland homeowners will receive tax credits averaging nearly $600.
"It increases every year," said Robert E. Young, who heads the state's Homeowners' Tax Credit program, which gave out $46 million in credits. "Years ago, it was about $20 million."
Young, who will report to the General Assembly in the coming weeks, said about 78,000 Maryland homeowners last summer got tax credits for an average of nearly $600 per property owner.
Known to many as the so-called "circuit breaker" law, it sets limits on the amount of property tax families must pay, based on income. While much of the recent focus of tax protesters has been on property assessments and how to appeal them, the tax credits, begun in 1976, are another source of relief.
When the program began 15 years ago, it was designed to help senior citizens on fixed or low incomes from being hurt by rising property tax bills, Young said. But in 1979, the General Assembly expanded the program to include homeowners of all ages, and even those who make more than $30,000 a year, although there are limits.
To be eligible for the program, a homeowner must have lived in his home for more than six months of the tax year and have a gross net worth of less than $200,000 -- not including the value of the home.
A family with gross income of $20,000 a year, for example, would TTC have a property-tax limit of $980. If their tax bill was $1,200, they would be eligible for a $220 credit from the state.
For fiscal 1991, the bulk of the tax credit money -- about $34 million -- went to people with gross annual incomes between $4,000 and $15,000, Young said.
Another $8.2 million went to people whose incomes range between $15,000 and $25,000; nearly $300,000 went to those with incomes between $25,000 and $30,000, and $1.2 million went to people who had no income or made less than $4,000.
The state also paid $136,349 to 182 homeowners who make more than $30,000 a year, for an average tax credit of $749.
Young says the program goes a long way toward making sure no one is ever "taxed out of their homes."
"We now have a few homeowners in Baltimore City where we pay the entire tax bill," he said.
Because of a high tax rate and a heavy concentration of poorer residents, Baltimore got the most money this year with $18 million, Young said. Baltimore County came next with $8 million in assistance, then Prince George's County, $4.2 million; Montgomery, $3.8 million, and Anne Arundel, $3 million.
Leaders in the taxpayer revolt that spread through north Baltimore County last year and continues to grow in the eastern end of the county said the credits help, but are not enough.
"It's certainly a benefit to people, but it's limited," said John O'Neill, a retired Ruxton businessman who spearheaded last fall's unsuccessful campaign to cap county tax revenues and who is now a leader in Maryland Taxpayers Association.
"The average guy in Dundalk isn't eligible for this program," he said. "And what people are upset about is their property assessments going up 30 to 40 percent and it's that sudden jump that gets them."
For an application, call 321-3768. Homeowners have until Sept. 1 to apply, however, they are encouraged to file by May 30.
Homeowners Tax Credit ProgramJurisdiction Credits Total Avg. cred.
Arundel 5,838 $3million $526
Baltimore 26,003 $18million $693
Balt. Co. 15,210 $8million $527
Carroll 1,800 $897,373 $498
Harford 2,281 $1.2million $530
Howard 1,258 $835m318 $664
Maryland 78,299 $46million $586
Figures are for Fiscal year 1991