New Michigan law clarifies property tax exemptions for families of disabled veterans

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer speaks about newly signed legislation in Grand Rapids on Monday. (Governor Gretchen Whitmer via Facebook)

By Kyle Kaminski

October 23, 2023

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer signed legislation this month to ensure spouses of disabled veterans can maintain property tax exemptions—even after their spouse dies.

MICHIGAN—A newly signed state law aims to help lower costs for spouses of disabled military veterans by ensuring they won’t have to pay property taxes, even after their partner has died.

“Veterans and their families have sacrificed so much to keep our state and nation safe,” Gov. Gretchen Whitmer said in a statement. “Losing a partner can rock a family’s financial stability, but we can ease the burden for spouses of disabled veterans by ensuring they can still qualify for property tax exemptions, keeping a roof over their heads and more money in their pockets.”

In Michigan, disabled veterans who were discharged from the military (under honorable conditions) are eligible for a property tax exemption. And under state law, when the veteran dies, the tax exemption can also carry over to the veteran’s “unremarried surviving spouse.”

State officials said long-running legal disputes over how that tax exemption should work, and whether it should follow the spouse or a particular piece of property, have created uncertainties for veterans and their families—and that the recently signed legislation will officially clear the air.

“This is a crucial piece of legislation that seeks to address the challenges faced by disabled veterans and their surviving spouses in accessing property tax exemptions,” state Sen. Sylvia Santana (D-Detroit) said in a statement. “With this new law, we are making a lasting impact.”

The new laws specify that the property tax exemption will remain available to the property owned and used as a homestead by a surviving spouse after the disabled veteran’s death—regardless of whether or not the spouse has moved to another property altogether. 

“Veterans have selflessly sacrificed for our country and this legislation ensures those sacrifices continue to be honored when they return home,” state Sen. Mary Cavanagh (D-Redford Township) said in a statement. “Senate Bill 330 will make a tangible difference in the lives of disabled veterans and their surviving spouses, removing barriers to this financial relief.”

Currently, state law requires veterans and their spouses to request the exemption on an annual basis. Senate Bill 176—which Whitmer signed into law last week—will amend state law so that veterans (and their spouses) only need to file one request in order to receive the tax exemption.

The bills also include some new procedures for ensuring the tax rolls are accurate in Michigan.

Senate Bills 330 and 364 include clear rules for how local assessors should audit (and potentially deny) claims for those who aren’t using a home as their primary residence, as well as create a pro-rated tax system for properties that are only occupied for a portion of the year.

According to a legislative analysis, the changes will likely allow some veterans and their families to receive exemption claims that were previously denied, as well as rescind some exemptions for families that received them in error—for an overall “minimal” impact on the state budget.

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  • Kyle Kaminski

    Kyle Kaminski is an award-winning investigative journalist with more than a decade of experience covering news across Michigan. Prior to joining The ‘Gander, Kyle worked as the managing editor at City Pulse in Lansing and as a reporter for the Traverse City Record-Eagle.

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