Tax break for spouses of military killed in action

Surviving spouses of members of the U.S. armed forces who were killed in action can qualify for a tax exemption on their home that took effect Jan. 1.

Henrico County is encouraging any residents who qualify to apply with the Department of Finance. For information, call (804) 501-5335 or go to henrico.us/finance/divisions/real-estate-division/surviving-spouse.

Homeowners should have received details about the exemption with their 2015 real estate assessment notices. Information also will be included with the May mailing of the year’s first-half real estate tax bills.

To qualify for the new exemption, a homeowner must be the spouse of an armed services member who was killed in action as determined by the Department of Defense.

The spouse may qualify for exemption as long as he or she does not remarry and continues to use the property as a primary place of residence.

A home – including the property on which it is located – is tax exempt only up to the average assessed value of single-family homes in the country for the most recently ended tax year. Any value above the average will be taxable.

In 2014, the average value of a single-family home in Henrico is $227,000, according to Finance’s Real Estate Assessment Division.

If a home qualifies, the exemption applies to as many as 10 acres of land.

Officials have no estimates of how many homeowners might qualify or what the impact on real estate tax collections could be.

Virginia voters overwhelmingly approved the exemption in November as a state constitutional amendment. In Henrico, the measure passed with 89 percent support, which compared with 87 percent support statewide.

In 2010, Virginia voters approved a constitutional amendment granting a tax exemption on the principal residence of a veteran, or his or her surviving spouse, if the veteran has a 100 percent service-connected, permanent and total disability. The value of that exemption is unrestricted.