As Pennsylvania ramps up Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program, three GOP Reps look to streamline it

29 February 2024- A group of state House lawmakers announced Thursday a package of bills designed to reform and streamline the state’s successful Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program.

The proposals come on the heels of a law adopted last year that significantly expanded income eligibility limits and increased the maximum rebates to provide more help to senior citizens and people with disabilities across the Commonwealth.

The three bills are being sponsored by state Reps. Bud Cook (R-Greene/Washington), Rob Mercuri (R-Allegheny) and Jack Rader (R-Monroe).

Cook’s proposal would streamline the application process by allowing people to simultaneously apply for the rebates when filing annual returns for the state Personal Income Tax. Additionally, the measure would require the Department of Revenue to provide previous rebate recipients with a copy of an application that is pre-filled with information already known to the department. 

“This program provides a great benefit, but the current process is unnecessarily burdensome for both the applicants and Department of Revenue staff who process the rebate applications,” Cook said. “While my office readily helps people file for their rebates each year, we can make their lives even easier by making use of the information the department already has on hand.”

Mercuri’s bill would establish mandatory processing timelines for property tax and rent rebate applications by requiring the department to decide on a completed application within 10 days of receipt. If the timeline is not met, the application would be deemed approved and the payment covered by the department’s operating budget. 

“Efficient government service is the most effective government service. My office, and many others, receive many requests to help people check the status of their rebate applications, with many of them taking several months to be approved and paid out,” Mercuri said. “Establishing a mandatory timeline for property taxes and rent rebates to be processed within a 10-business-day window will allow residents to rely on the rebate timeline for budgeting and personal finance, increasing the total value of the program for PA residents.”

Rader’s proposal would permanently establish a Dec. 31 deadline to apply for each year’s program. Current law sets the deadline for June 30 but gives the department the authority to extend it if additional funds are available, which has occurred every year for at least the last two decades. 

“Those who rely on this program should not have to play a guessing game to see if they have until Dec. 31 to apply each year,” Rader said. “My proposal would remove this meaningless deadline and provide consistency for applicants.”

The Property Tax/Rent Rebate Program benefits eligible residents age 65 and older; widows and widowers age 50 and older; and people with disabilities age 18 and older. Income eligibility limits stand at $45,000 for both homeowners and renters, with 50% of Social Security excluded when calculating income. The maximum rebate is $1,000.

Since 2006, the program has assisted 8.7 million applicants and returned $4.1 billion to low-income individuals. The program is funded through proceeds from the Pennsylvania Lottery and gaming in the Commonwealth. 

More information about the proposals is available here.