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The Shirley Council on Aging would like to make the Seniors (age 60 and older) aware of several options available to certain qualified persons that can reduce or help pay your real estate tax. We encourage you to review the options outlined below and contact our office for information, which explain each option in detail including all eligibility requirements.

The first is the Senior Tax Work-off Program. This is a great program, driven by the Shirley Assessor’s office, which is available to handicapped persons and persons older than 60. Applicants work for the town and can receive up to $1,000 off their real estate tax bill. Work includes helping the schools, town offices and committees, DPW, and library. Typical skills being sought include filing, computer skills, custodial, landscaping, and others. In order to earn the full $1,000, an individual must work 125 hours a year, which sounds like a lot, but actually only amounts to an average of 2.5 hours per week.

We have made some changes to the program this year in order to expand the number of seniors we can accommodate with the funding available. We will have levels of commitments available. Seniors, depending on their skills and the needs of the departments, can make a yearly commitment of 125 hours ($1,000), 93.75 hours ($750) or 62.5 hours ($500). Selection will be based on the needs of the town and the skills of the seniors applying.

All work performed during calendar year 2010 will be credited on the fiscal 2011 tax bill. Contact Becky in the Assessors Office or John Oelfke in the COA office for an information and application packet. We will begin taking application the week of Jan. 4.

The second item is the Circuit Breaker Tax Credit program. This is a program for persons older than 65 whose property tax (and water/sewer bills) or 25 percent of their rent exceed 10 percent of their income, assuming you meet other criteria. This is a tax credit on your state income tax and is available even if you do not have to pay any taxes.

The key criteria include:

* Age, 65+; Income, not more than $51,000 (single) or $77,000 (married); residency, own or rent principal residence in Mass.

* 10 percent rule: Owner of property, compare 10 percent of your income with your property tax and your water/sewer bill.You get a credit for the difference.

Renters compare 10 percent of your income with 25 percent of your annual rent payment. You get a credit for the difference.

Call the COA or your tax person for more information.

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Statutory Tax Exemptions: These are available for those with qualifications such as; disabled veteran, blind, surviving spouses and elderly who are over 70 who meet financial guidelines. An annual statutory exemption application must be filed no later than 90 days after the actual tax bills are mailed.

Also available are tax deferrals, which defer the payment of property taxes until you transfer the property’s title or death, and are available to owners 65 years of age or older who meet financial requirements and complete an annual application and lien. Applications and additional information are available from the Assessor’s office.