New senior tax credit requires online application
Applicant concerned about her privacy protection
Beth Fabey has already had her identity stolen before so she is wary of sharing personal information online.
But when she went to apply for a new property tax credit at the St. Mary’s County treasurer’s office, she was told she could only do so through an online application.
She brought her deed, her driver’s license and Maryland tax return, which are all required to apply for the tax credit, to the treasurer’s office but was told she could not do so in person.
“That’s ridiculous. I had my documents right there,” Fabey, 68, of Charlotte Hall said.
The Maryland General Assembly passed a new property tax credit last year for those 65 and older who have lived in the same home for 40 or more years, and for those 65 and older who retired from the military. It was up to each county to implement the program locally.
The St. Mar y’s County commissioners voted to start the 10-percent credit this year, but weren’t sure how many residents qualified. Other stipulations were added. A home must be valued at $400,000 or less and the household’s taxable net income has to be $80,000 or less.
So far, four people in St. Mary’s County have applied for the credit, which the treasurer’s office calls the 65-10 credit, but it’s only been a week and a half since the registration period began.
Christy Kelly ran on a platform to enhance the technology in the county’s treasurer and won in the 2014 election.
Applications for the county’s senior matching tax credit and senior tax cap credit are both mailed out and filed manually by the treasurer’s office. About 2,000 residents use those two credits in St. Mary’s, Kelly said. “Everyone of these applications have to be meted out,” by treasurer’s office staff, verifying information such as a home being a principal residence, how much its tax bill is and how much its assessment is, she said.
Because the 65-10 credit is new, Kelly wanted to start its application process strictly online in an effort to improve efficiency.
“We’re trying to streamline as much as we can so we don’t have to have additional office staff,” Kelly said in an interview on Monday.
“To start a new [credit], we want to start fresh,” she said.
Kelly said she understands that some seniors don’t have computers, but documents can be scanned and sent over the internet at county libraries and at the senior centers. “We recommend the office on aging or family members that are willing to assist,” Kelly said in applying online.
“I think this is totally inappropriate and I just think it’s a shame. I have had my identity hacked so many times because of credit cards and doing things online,” Fabey said.
“All this personal data and St. Mary’s [County government] was hacked not too long ago,” she said.
On Thanksgiving Day last year, a vulnerability within St. Mary’s County government’s network was exploited and ransomware — said to have originated in Russia — invaded the system, causing nearly $100,000 in damage to computers and servers, according to county government technology staff.
“We’re making it as secure as we possibly can,” Kelly said. “It is the next generation and we’re trying to get there.”
The digital files such as tax returns are not stored on the St. Mary’s County government website, but rather through www.mydocsonline.com, which is encrypted, she said. The documents are then deleted.
The deadline to apply for the 65-10 credit is Sept. 1. The application can be found at www.co. saint-marys.md.us/treasurer/.