The Montana Department of Revenue said Wednesday it received more than 226,600 applications for homeowner property tax rebates during the application period that closed Oct. 2 — a figure that, MTFP calculates, represents about three-quarters of eligible homeowners.
The property tax rebates, up to $675 per homeowner, were authorized by this year’s Montana Legislature and Gov. Greg Gianforte, a Republican. Lawmakers, who also authorized a similar round of rebates for next year, allocated about $350 million from the state’s budget surplus to pay for both years of the program.
The Legislature also authorized income tax rebates of up to $1,250 an individual. Those rebates, which applied to 2021 income tax payments, were paid without an application process this summer.
Department spokesman Jason Slead also said in a Wednesday email that the department had approved 206,879 of the 226,613 property tax rebate applications it received, with the remaining 20,000 being either denied, flagged for review, or hard copy claims the department hadn’t finished processing.
Slead said the department had identified 2,700 fraudulent rebate claims totalling $1.7 million. He indicated the vast majority of approved claims, 96%, were for the full $675 rebate amount.
While the Legislature was debating the bill that authorized the property tax rebates, the department used U.S. Census Bureau data to estimate that the state had 292,000 owner-occupied housing units that would be potentially eligible. Slead said Wednesday that the department now believes that figure was an overestimate because of other eligibility requirements included in the law, but added that the agency didn’t have a more precise number readily available.
The rebates were generally available to resident homeowners who lived in and paid taxes on a Montana residence for at least seven months in 2022. The department determined that private residences technically owned by some legal entities, such as LLCs, corporations and some types of trusts, were ineligible for the rebate.
The revenue department’s application form required taxpayers to provide their property address, social security number, state property database geocode and the amount paid on their 2022 tax bill. That process came under some criticism, including from former Democratic Gov. Brian Schweitzer, as being unduly burdensome.
In an email Thursday, Slead said the department is satisfied with the number of applications it received, noting it has issued $136 million in rebates. He also said the department hadn’t previously had all the information it needed to process claims in accordance with the rebate law.
“For instance,” he wrote, “we didn’t have data showing which home was a principal residence versus a rental for those property owners with multiple residences.”
Slead also said the department plans to refine its application process for next year’s rebate cycle.
“We spent significant time making the process as user-friendly as possible and will continue to improve it for next year,” Slead wrote.
This story was updated Oct. 5, 2023, to add additional comment from the revenue department.
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