The Disabled Veteran's Exemption

This pamphlet, produced by the Santa Cruz County Assessor explains how veterans may obtain property tax relief.

What is the Disabled Veteran's Exemption?
The Disabled Veteran's Exemption is outlined in Section 205.5 of the California Revenue & Taxation Code. For qualifying claimants it exempts a portion of the assessed value of their personal residence from property tax.

How much does it exempt?
For 2011, an exemption of up to $116,845 is available to totally disabled (as rated by the Veteran’s Administration) veterans.  This rises to $175,269 if household income does not exceed $52,470. These amounts are increased annually by an inflation factor based on the California Consumer Price Index. The exemption is available on both regular assessments and supplemental assessments.

Who qualifies for this exemption?
Both veterans and unmarried, surviving spouses of veterans may qualify. Veteran as defined in Section 3 of Article XIII of the Constitution is quite broad. It includes all of the Services and there are even some peacetime veterans that would be included. The applicant qualifies if he/she:

  1. “is blind in both eyes, has lost the use of two or more limbs, or is totally disabled as a result of injury or disease incurred in military service” or.....
  2. has been rated as 100% disabled by the VA or disability compensation is at 100% by reason of being unable to secure or follow a substantially gainful occupation or.....
  3. is “the unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran; provided, that the deceased veteran during his or her lifetime qualified in all respects for the exemption or would have qualified for the exemption under the laws effective on January 1, 1977".
  4. is the unmarried surviving spouse of a veteran who died as a result of a service-connected disease or disability or was killed on active duty.

What kinds of property are subject to the exemption?
The property must be a principal place of residence. 

What about my Homeowner's Exemption, is that still applicable if I qualify for the Disabled Veteran's Exemption?
No, this exemption is granted in lieu of any other real property exemption. In addition: “No other real property tax exemption may be granted to any other person with respect to the same residence for which an exemption has been granted under the provisions of this section...”

What kind of documentation do I need when I apply for this exemption?
You will need your rating letter from the US Dept of Veterans’ Affairs showing a 100% disability rating or rated at 100% due to unemployability. If you are claiming low-income status, you will also need to provide a Household Income Worksheet (available on our website) for each year you are claiming the exemption. If you are applying for the exemption as the spouse of a deceased veteran, you will need a copy of your marriage certificate and the veteran’s death certificate (or facsimile). You will also need a letter from the US Dept of Veterans’ Affairs as proof of the veteran’s disability or that the veteran’s cause of death was service-connected.

Where can I get a claim form?
Claim forms are available at the County Assessor's Office, 701 Ocean St, Room 130 in Santa Cruz. You may also call 454-2002 and request that a form be sent to you or you can access an online PDF form here.

When should I file?
Claimants will receive the full amount of the appropriate exemption, prorated from the date the property becomes the principal residence, if the initial claim is filed either by the next lien date (January 1) or 90 days after the date of the USDVA’s determination; whichever is later. The low-income provision of the exemption must be renewed annually by February 15. If the claim is filed after February 15, the claimant will receive the basic exemption plus 90% of the amount over the basic exemption.

Must I file every year?
Once you qualify for the basic exemption it remains in effect until terminated. You will be sent a notice on or after January 1 to ascertain whether or not you have retained your eligibility. An annual filing is required where the low-income exemption is claimed. Once terminated, a new claim form must be obtained from and filed with the Assessor to regain eligibility.