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2012-06-21

AG clarifies surviving spousal exemption

Contributed

Just in from the Attorney General's office is the news that surviving spouses of disabled veterans who received the residence homestead exemption for 100 percent disabled veterans prior to January 1, 2012 may still qualify for the full exemption on residential homesteads, even though legislation passed by the last session of the Texas Legislature did not become effective until that date, according to a recent ruling issued by Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

"Our interpretation of the law and of the attorney general's official opinion means that surviving spouses of qualified 100% disabled veterans who died in 2009, 2010, or 2011, and later will be entitled to the exemption," Chief Appraiser Wendy Grams said. "This eligibility also requires the surviving spouse to meet all of the other eligibility requirements outlined in state law."

The exemption for 100% disabled veterans is provided for in Section 11.131 of the Texas Tax Code, which retroactively took effect on January 1, 2009. The new 2012 law states that the veteran must have qualified for the exemption under subsection (b) of the 2009 law, in order for the surviving spouse to be eligible for the exemption.

Because the law providing continuation of the exemption for surviving spouses was not effective until January 1, 2012, there was a question of whether or not the disabled veteran must have died on or after that date, in order for the disabled veteran's surviving spouse to be eligible for the exemption.

In his opinion, the attorney general stated that "so long as the surviving spouse is on January 1, 2012 a surviving spouse that satisfies the other requirements of the subsection 11.131(c), the surviving spouse is eligible for the exemption."

The opinion specifically addressed the question of a disabled veteran's death in 2011 before the law took effect. The attorney general opined that the death of the disabled veteran in 2011, prior to the effective date of the legislation "does not change that result and is relevant to only the determination as to whether the spouse is a surviving spouse under the Tax code on January 1, 2012", General Abbott concluded.

The attorney general's opinion also addressed an issue of a pro rata calculation of the property tax exemption of a disabled veteran who dies before January 1, 2012, and determined that such a pro rata calculation was not required under the Tax Code.

"There may well be other issues that are raised regarding the enforcement of this portion of the portion of the Tax Code," Chief Grams said. "However, the Bandera Central Appraisal District will of course be guided by this opinion of Attorney General Abbott."

For more information regarding this exemption, contact the Bandera Appraisal District at (830) 796-3039.