New se­nior tax credit re­quires on­line ap­pli­ca­tion

Ap­pli­cant con­cerned about her pri­vacy pro­tec­tion

The Enterprise - - Front Page - By JA­SON BAB­COCK jbab­cock@somd­ Twit­ter: @Ja­sonEn­tNews

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 through­doc­son­, 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 at­surer/.


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