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Property taxes skyrocketing? Thousands more now qualify for refunds in Wyoming.

Eligible homeowners now have until June 3 to apply for the newly expanded program.

A Laramie home for sale in 2024. (Tennessee Watson/WyoFile)

by Maggie Mullen, WyoFile

After Wyoming’s property tax refund program helped a record number of Wyoming homeowners last year, lawmakers boosted the program with an additional $20 million and expanded eligibility during the 2024 budget session. 

Two-thousand more households are now expected to qualify for relief. 

“I want to thank the Legislature for endorsing the importance of this program to Wyoming taxpayers, and for providing the resources needed to get additional relief to those most impacted by increased assessments,” Gov. Mark Gordon said in a press release that announced the opening of the application period in April.   

As property values rose in Wyoming in recent years, so did property taxes. The resulting outcry from homeowners feeling the pinch prompted legislative leadership to make property taxes the top non-budget priority for the recently completed session. Lawmakers ultimately got five bills across the finish line.  

Four of the bills made it into law, but Gordon’s veto of one and partial rejection of another ignited a fiery dispute with lawmakers who voted almost unanimously on the package of bills. The clash culminated in a failed vote for a special session to challenge Gordon’s vetoes. 

With the dust settled, homeowners now have less than a month to apply for the newly expanded refund program. Other changes will either be automatically implemented or won’t come into effect until next year. 

Refund program

Homeowners have until June 3 to apply for the refund program through the Department of Revenue’s website or at their county treasurer’s office. 

But first, applicants will need to pay their property tax bill in full. 

“It is a refund of taxes already paid. So that’s an important piece of that,” Department of Revenue Director Brenda Henson told WyoFile.

While some homeowners pay their tax bill directly to their local county treasurer’s office, others have it folded into their monthly mortgage payment. Either way, applicants will need to provide proof that the bill’s been paid. 

“The second-half of 2023 taxes are not due until the 10th of May. And many mortgage companies don’t pay those second-half taxes until right before the deadline,” Henson said. “So [applicants] just need to make sure that they’ve checked with their local county treasurer. Many of them have online websites where you can see if the taxes are paid in full, and actually print out a receipt showing they have been paid in full.”

If that’s not completed before submitting the application, Henson said it slows down the process since her office has to reach back out. 

Homeowners should also confirm they’re eligible before applying since there are several restrictions. 

Lawmakers increased the amount of income a household can earn while still qualifying for the program. More specifically, household income can go up to 145% of the county’s median income, or the statewide median, whichever is greater. 

Because lawmakers created a tiered system, those whose household income is equal to or below 125% will receive larger refunds. Lawmakers had also voted to provide refunds to those who make up to 165%, but that portion of the bill was vetoed by Gordon, who said it extended the program “just a bit too far.” 

Lawmakers expanded the eligibility for a statewide property tax refund program to include those who earn no more than 145% of their county’s gross median income. (Courtesy/Wyoming Department of Revenue)

There are also restrictions when it comes to assets. 

Applicants can’t have more than $156,900 per adult household member, which includes any investments, bank accounts or other real estate. It excludes the home, a vehicle for each adult household member and any retirement accounts. 

Additionally, applicants must have been a Wyoming resident for five years and need to have lived in their home for at least nine months during 2023. 

To apply, homeowners must provide three documents — a copy of their tax bill, a copy of the receipt showing that their taxes have been paid in full and proof of income for all household members for 2023. 

Refunds will be issued between July 1 and Sept. 30.  

Other changes 

The one other immediate change doesn’t require homeowners to submit an application. 

Instead, county assessors will exempt annual property tax increases that exceed 4% thanks to legislation brought by Rep. Barry Crago (R-Buffalo). Next tax year, the exemption will also apply to improved associated land. 

The idea behind the bill was to cap the double-digit, year-over-year increases that homeowners in some counties have recently experienced. The bill was also a way to work within the confines of the Wyoming Constitution to get relief to homeowners, Crago said, while the Legislature waits to see what voters do with a ballot initiative in November. 

The state constitution currently groups residential property in the same tax class as commercial and industrial properties, which limits lawmakers’ abilities to target relief specifically for homeowners. Voters will have the option to separate out residential property into its own tax category via a ballot initiative on Election Day in November.

If the measure passes, Crago said, “it will give us a lot more flexibility in how residential properties are taxed. It will allow us to lower the effective rate for homeowners and really, that’s what we want to be able to do. Right now we can’t do that because they’re all tied together.” 

Regardless of whether the ballot measure passes, two other changes will go into effect in 2025. 

The veterans exemption will double thanks to legislation brought by Sen. Ed Cooper (R-Ten Sleep). Currently, veterans can apply for a $3,000 property tax exemption through their county assessor’s office by May 27th. 

Next year, the exemption will be $6,000. 

Additionally, homeowners — or their spouses — who are at least 65 years old and have paid Wyoming property taxes for at least 25 years will see their property taxes cut in half in 2025. The 25 years is cumulative and does not require an applicant to live in the same home. 

Sponsored by the Joint Revenue Committee, the law exempts 50% of the assessed value of a home. The law will require homeowners to submit an application through their local county assessor’s office. 

The law will be on the books for two tax years before it is set to expire in 2027. 

This article was originally published by WyoFile and is republished here with permission. WyoFile is an independent nonprofit news organization focused on Wyoming people, places and policy.