We have a couple ways to know that it's Spring here at our office:
- Our heat switches over and we go from being too hot in our office (over the winter, we're all in t-shirts) to being too cold (summer = sweater weather, indoors).
- All the people outside shed layers. It looks cathartic.
- People start asking us uncomfortably complicated questions about taxes.
Much like we are not attorneys (nope! we aren't! but here are some), we are also not accountants. And taxes are hard. But we do know a little bit about the Homestead Credit, a credit that low-income tenants and homeowners can get to reduce the taxes they must pay (or increase their refund). Here's the rundown on our knowledge.
Low-income tenants or homeowners can qualify for the Homestead Credit if their income is under $24,680 as a household, and if they lived in a Wisconsin property for part or all of the tax year. The UW-Extension does a great job explaining the benefit, and all the ways you must qualify.
NOTE: If you need help filling out your Homestead Tax Credit forms, click here for a list of free tax assistance sites in Dane County.
Here's how it works as a renter: When you fill out your Wisconsin taxes, you fill out 2 extra forms to get this credit.
- Either Schedule H-EZ or Schedule H. Schedule H-EZ is usually what folks fill out (it's easier), but it isn't for folks who have weird sources of income, or use their rental home as part of their business.
- and the Rent Certificate. This is the certificate that tells how much rent you paid over the year, and the landlord signs it to verify the amount.
What if the landlord doesn't sign the Rent Certificate? Unfortunately, your landlord is not legally required to fill out this form for you. If your landlord won't sign, then you have 1 choice:
- You include copies of all the cashed checks or money order receipts that you paid to your landlord for your rent, along with your taxes. (You attach it to your tax documents in the same way that you include your W2 forms). Most banks allow you to easily print copies of these from your online account. You can also go to your bank and request copies of those checks. Some banks ask you to pay a fee for this service. (Warning: receipts from your landlord won't work!)
The Dept. of Revenue says they will not allow a credit for rent that can't be proved it was paid, so if there's a month where you don't have proof of payment, then that's not rent that you can claim under this credit. You can find Frequently Asked Questions from the Dept. of Revenue here.
Here's how it works as a homeowner: When you fill out your Wisconsin taxes, you attach 2 extra pieces of information to your taxes, in order to get this credit.
- Either Schedule H-EZ or Schedule H. Schedule H-EZ is usually what folks fill out (it's easier), but it isn't for folks who got married or divorced during 2014, have weird sources of income, or use their rental home as part of their business.
- and a copy of your property tax bill. This is the bill that explains how much your city has asked you to pay in property taxes, which you need to prove in order to get this credit.
- Schedule H & Schedule H-EZ Instructions & Dept. of Revenue Links
- Dept. of Revenue Frequently Asked Questions about Homestead Credit
- Dept. of Revenue Homestead Credit Fact Sheet
- UW-Extension Tax Information for Low-Income Families