Wednesday, November 3, 2004

Louisiana voters approve tax exemptions for unmarried homeowners

A story released today by the Associated Press reports that voters in Louisiana approved four ballot measures to amend the state constitution, including one that would entitle unmarried individuals who jointly own a home together to each claim a homestead tax exemption, just like married spouses can.

None of the proposals stirred up anything like the controversy that surrounded the amendment banning gay marriage, which passed overwhelmingly on Sept. 18, then was struck down by a judge.

Jefferson Parish Tax Assessor Lawrence Chehardy, who ran TV ads urging voters to pass the homestead exemption amendment, said the overwhelming support proved how popular the tax break is.

"The message I think voters are sending is that No. 1, they support the homestead exemption, and that No. 2, the homestead exemption should extend to everyone that owns their home and occupies it," Chehardy said.

The amendment extends the homestead exemption to a widow in various situations and unmarried people who share ownership in a home, among others. With all precincts reporting early Tuesday morning, it passed with 78 percent approval, or 1,128,653 votes for and 317,708 against.

Amendment No. 2 dealt with what proponents contend are modern changes to the $75,000 homestead exemption -- some of which already are accepted by many tax assessors, while rejected by others.

The homestead exemption will be extended to a surviving or former spouse in various situations, unmarried people who share ownership in a home, people who put their ownership in a home into an irrevocable trust and people with use-value land -- such as farm land -- or timberland.

Supporters said the amendment simply recognized reality. For example, many unmarried people jointly own homes and elderly people often hand off their residences to a trust in order to qualify for medical assistance.