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Missouri legislators begin task of property tax reform

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(The Center Square) – Leaders of both parties voiced their intention on the first day of Missouri’s 2024 legislative session last week to correct or clarify last year’s law providing seniors with property tax relief.

Senate Bill 190, sponsored by Sen. Tony Luetkemeyer, R-Parkville, and signed into law by Republican Gov. Mike Parson last July, freezes property tax rates for those eligible to receive Social Security retirement benefits if their county approves the initiative by ordinance or ballot measure. The law also exempted Social Security payments from state taxes.

Luetkemeyer pre-filed Senate Bill 756 in December to change the definition from those eligible for Social Security retirement benefits to a taxpayer 62 years of age or older.

“This would be just a first step,” Dennis Ganahl, leader of Missouri Tax Relief Now, said in an interview with The Center Square. “We’re also finding some other problems in the way counties are implementing it.”

Some counties implemented the tax freeze for seniors with a requirement the home’s value be under a specific amount.

“In some rural counties claiming to be Republican and conservative, they’re trying to make narrow interpretations and it’s creating issues,” Ganahl said. “We’d like to see all these loopholes closed.”

Rep. Brad Christ, R-St. Louis, was appointed by Speaker Dean Plocher, R-St. Louis, on Tuesday to lead a special committee on property tax reform. Rep. Aaron McMullen, R-Independence, was appointed vice chairman.

“We’re happy about this development and we’re trying to reach out to him and his committee as we’d like to get very involved,” Ganahl said. “Our network now is 3,000 people across the state. We’ve got 11 counties implementing some portion of SB190 and another 21 we’re working with.”

A media release from the House stated the goals of the special committee are to examine the impacts of property taxes and evaluate methods to reduce the volatility of taxes.

“It’s a heated issue and people are upset about it,” Ganahl said. “We’ve attracted people through our website who are going to run for state representative in their area because of this. We’ve got people running for county commissioners in their area because the blowback they’ve received from county commissions.”

The special committee also will examine the level of transparency in property tax assessments. It also will evaluate alternatives in the assessment process to lower the number of appeals to county boards of equalization and the state tax commission.

“None of the assessors will tell you how they are assessing property,” Ganahl said. “And what is ‘fair market value?’ Our contention is fair market value is what the house sold for. That’s the basis for all transactions. But property taxes are now based on what the house is worth, whether or not you have realized gains. They’re taxing unrealized gains. And we don’t tax those in the stock market or anywhere else.”

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