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Seniors to get new tax break

Those living in their own homes eligible for rebate on school levy

Manitoba seniors who live in their own homes can start applying this month for the new seniors school tax rebate.

"Everybody who's 65 by the end of this year will be eligible for an additional $235 in an education property-tax rebate," Finance Minister Jennifer Howard said Friday, adding it's the first step in the NDP's pledge to eliminate school taxes for seniors by 2016.

To qualify for the new tax rebate, a senior must own and live in their home, be at least 65 by the end of 2014 and have school taxes not already fully covered by the existing education property-tax credit.

Howard said the goal of the rebate is to allow seniors to afford to stay in their own homes longer as property values and property taxes increase.

"This will help them hopefully stay in that home and enjoy a good life," she said.

Howard said eligible seniors can start applying when they receive their property-tax statement from their municipality. Residents of Winnipeg, Brandon and several other communities will receive their property-tax statements this month. Some municipalities send out their tax bills in the summer or early fall.

"The idea is to get this money into peoples' hands when they're paying their taxes," Howard said.

A maximum rebate of $235 is available in 2014 in addition to $700 in the education property-tax credit and up to $400 in the seniors education property tax credit top-up. The rebate will increase in 2015 and by 2016 will fully cover school taxes for seniors.

Applications and more information are available at www.manitoba.ca/seniorsrebate or by calling 204-945-7555 in Winnipeg or 1-855-893-8266 (toll-free).

An estimated 80,000 homes are owned by seniors in Manitoba, the province says, with about 10,000 senior homeowners who already have their school taxes fully covered by the education property-tax credit.

This year, an additional 7,200 senior households will no longer pay school taxes with the new seniors school tax rebate. The rebates are expected to total about $15 million.

Based on concerns raised by several Manitobans, the province will be setting a rebate limit for luxury homes, a move that would affect fewer than one per cent of senior homeowners, about 150 people, starting in 2016, Howard said.

"We're looking for a way to avoid a situation where some people are going to be getting thousands and thousands of dollars back," Howard said. "We want to try to make it fair, so we'll set that limit."

Howard has already said the province needs an extra year to fulfil a 2011 election promise to bring in the new tax credit, citing the need to not only eliminate the budget deficit in three years, but deal with lower-than-anticipated federal transfer payments due to an ongoing squabble with Ottawa over Manitoba's population.

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