How to File for Circuit Breakers

By Jayne Thompson - Updated April 06, 2017

In 2016, 15 states and Washington, D.C. offered a circuit breaker program, providing property tax exemptions or credits for qualifying homeowners and renters. The tax break is not automatic – you have to claim it by completing the mandated form and filing it with the county treasurer's office. The program is intended to help seniors and low-to-moderate income households. It kicks in when too much of your income would be spent on property taxes.

Determine Your Eligibility

Circuit breaker property tax credits or rent rebates are available to "eligible individuals," a category of persons that typically includes seniors, persons with disabilities and those in receipt of Social Security Disability, Supplemental Security Income or Veterans' Disability. Rules vary by jurisdiction, so check whether you qualify by calling your county auditor's or treasurer's office.

Calculate Your Total Income

To apply for circuit breakers, your annual income must be less than the statutory state threshold. For example, Missouri renters must have an income of $27,500 or less for a single person, or $29,500 or less for a married couple filing jointly. For Utah homeowners, the income limit is $32,101. You might also have to pass a residency test, such as proving that you've lived in the state for at least a year. Call the county for specific information.

Gather Your Documents

You'll need to supply proof of income and residency, so gather the following documents before you fill out the application:

  • Proof of eligibility, for example, Form SSA-1099 or a letter from the Department of Veteran's Affairs
  • Proof of income for all members of the household, for example, forms W-2, 1099, 1099-R, 1099-DIV, 1099-INT and 1099-MISC 
  • Details of the social security benefits you've received, for example, forms SSA-1099, RRB-1099, or an SSI Statement
  • A copy of your rental agreement
  • The amount of property taxes paid in current year
  • Proof of residency, if your state requires you to show that you've lived in the state for a certain period.

Prepare Your Filing

Your county may use a statewide application form, or it may have its own form. Visit the county auditor's or treasurer's office website for the correct forms, or telephone the county office before submitting. Be aware that some states, such as Massachusetts, require that you file a state tax return to claim circuit breakers, even if you aren't obligated to file otherwise. Prepare your filing carefully, attaching copies of any letters or forms required with the claim. Sign and date your form and mail it to your county office.

Take Care with Filing Dates

Some counties accept circuit breaker applications only during a filing window – check with your county office. If you miss the filing date, you'll have to persuade the county to accept your late application. Some jurisdictions will help you if you can show that you had a good reason for missing the deadline. Otherwise, the county will reject your application, and you will have to file again during the next window.

About the Author

A former real estate lawyer, Jayne Thompson writes about law, business and corporate communications, drawing on 17 years’ experience in the legal sector. She holds a Bachelor of Laws from the University of Birmingham and a Masters in International Law from the University of East London.

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