If your home burns, floods or is destroyed by a tornado and it’s not livable, you shouldn’t have to pay property tax on it. That’s the thought behind some legislation that will be proposed to clarify tax rules in Mississippi.
State Rep. Ken Morgan spoke about the bill that he’s planning to bring up in the 2019 legislative session that begins Jan. 8 as well as other property tax-related items, including requiring a permit to move a mobile home to or from a property.
“I want to put things in layman’s terms,” the Republican from Morgantown said of the proposals. “As far as the codes go, the board of supervisors in each county has the authority to adjust taxes. They can increase or delete based on evaluations. I just want the bill to clarify things. Many citizens and boards don’t know the process or that it is even possible.”
Morgan said he has discussed with idea with several constituents whose homes burned and that he has proposed the clarifications several times since the 2014 tornado that destroyed many homes and businesses in Columbia and Marion County. The Board of Supervisors has authority to make tax adjustments if a home is destroyed by a disaster, Morgan said, and the bill would help clarify the process.
“If you’ve had a fire and your home burns to the ground, you would only pay taxes on the property, not on the house, because the house is gone. The language of the bill would clarify this so people who have been wiped out by a disaster could get a financial break. If the structure isn’t physically there you shouldn’t pay taxes on it.”
Morgan also said homeowners need to communicate with their local tax assessor’s office if there are changes.
“People still need to keep in mind that if you’ve had a fire or torn down a structure that they need to contact the tax assessor before Jan. 1,” he said. “We’ve also spoken with Emergency Management Director Aaron Greer locally about providing the tax assessor’s office with fire reports when fires occur.”
Morgan also noted that the same premise holds true for insurance.
“For example, the Foxworth Volunteer Fire Department just got a Class 8 rating for all of its district by adding stations and trucks,” Morgan said. “People need to contact their insurance agent and let them know of the changes. It should help with their rates, but they aren’t automatically guaranteed that. You just need to follow up.”
Morgan will also be pursuing legislation related to permitting to move mobile homes to keep accountability.
“A lot of times we will see someone appeal a tax bill and say that a mobile home is no longer on a property or that it burned down,” he said. “If the tax assessor isn’t notified, there’s no way to know. It works the other way, too. We don’t know if another structure has been added unless they physically check it. My proposal would be to require a permit to move a mobile home to or from a property. The permit would be at no cost, but there would be fines if you didn’t get one. The permits would go through the tax assessor’s office and that way they would know if a property had a new mobile home or had one removed.”
Morgan said some people come to appeal a tax bill and tell the assessor’s office that a mobile home hasn’t been on the land for several years.
“It’s a benefit to the landowners and to the tax assessor’s office,” Morgan said. “It’s fair for everyone and the permit wouldn’t cost the person anything. They just need to know if a mobile home is on or not on a property to assess the taxes properly.”