Two Bills Could Increase Veterans’ Tax Credit

Two bills currently in the New Hampshire House and Senate, respectively, may change the way towns apportion their Veterans Tax Credits, as well as the amount of credit for which veterans are eligible.

SB 348 if adopted would raise the amount of property tax credit for “certain disabled veterans” to a maximum of $12,000. “Certain disabled veterans,” according to the draft bill, are those totally and permanently disabled from a service-connected disability, as determined by the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs. Among the sponsors are Dist. 19 Sen. Regina Birdsell, R-Hampstead, who also represents Derry, and Dist.14 Sen. Sharon Carson, R-Londonderry.

HB 430 contains several components, one of which is changing the eligibility for the Veterans Tax Credit to include “all veterans who have been discharged or all officers who have been honorably separated from service.” The RSA, 72:32, currently covers anyone who has served not less than 90 days, their surviving spouses, and anyone who has had Title I training as a member of the National Guard or reserves. But the current language states that it covers anyone who served “in any qualifying war or conflict.” The amendment would allow veterans who served in peacetime to qualify for the Veterans Tax Credit.

Behind the bill

The Senate bill has passed the Senate and is now in committee in the House of Representatives.

Birdsell, who is a Coast Guard veteran, said she is cosponsoring the bill because she trusts the bill’s sponsor, Dist. 11 Sen. Gary Daniels, R-Milford, and backs almost everything he does.

Daniels’ bill if approved would extend the amount of tax credit for which a disabled veteran can apply, assuming the bill is adopted by the legislature. The veteran must be totally and permanently disabled from a service-connected disability, and the bill states that the town can allow them to apply for “any amount up to $12,000.”

Regarding HB 430, Birdsell said, “Most people think you’re disabled because you’ve lost an eye or a limb. But in this day and age, men and women are coming back from the Middle East with PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) and other disorders not as readily visible.

“This bill is enabling in the sense that it broadens the definition,” she said.

State Rep Al Baldasaro, R-Londonderry, said HB 430 also broadens the definition. While he saw combat as a Marine during Operation Desert Storm, he pointed out that those who didn’t see combat supported those who did. “Those guys in the rear,” he said, “support those in the front.”

Baldasaro explained that HB 430 would take care of a so-called “doughnut hole” in which post-Vietnam and pre-Gulf veterans don’t get the tax credit.

In regard to SB 348, Derry Town Councilor Richard Tripp, a Vietnam combat veteran and member of the local Veterans of Foreign Wars post, said, “That’s a lot of money. And who pays for it? Therein lies the problem.”

Derry’s Town Council voted to raise the Veterans Tax Credit three years ago. In May 2014, the then-Council voted 5-1 to phase in the increase, with $50 in $2015 and an expectation of reaching the $500 allowable by state law in four years. The tax credit had remained at $300 since 2009.

A fully disabled veteran may already apply for up to $2,000 off their taxes, Tripp pointed out. And in addition to Derry’s current veterans tax credit, that would bring the amount disabled veterans got credited for up to $2,400. That’s $2,400 that the non-disabled taxpayers have to make up, he said.

The bill’s saving grace is that if it passes, the towns still have to individually adopt it. And, Tripp said, “While Derry’s tax rate is high, there are few private property owners that pay more than $10,000.”

“I don’t understand the push behind giving up to $12,000 more,” Tripp said.

The town is at $400 now and he expected the next $50 increment to be voted on before the end of the fiscal year.

Tripp said disabled veterans already receive up to $40,000 a year from “Uncle Sam,” in addition to free car registration and other town and state services. “I believe we have to take care of our vets,” he said. “But I also believe there’s a limit to how much.”

HB 430 presents a different problem for Tripp. “The way the law currently interprets the tax credit is that you had to have served during a war or a conflict – World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Afghanistan, the Gulf.” After 1975 the rules were tightened, he said, and veterans had to have served in a war or conflict and have seen combat.

“This law removes that regulation,” he said. “It allows anyone who has served at any time, which opens it up to a lot of people.”

While conventional wisdom has it that those joining the military put themselves at risk, Tripp said that’s not always the case. “Believe it or not, most people who go in the military never ‘go’ anywhere,” he observed, citing an acquaintance who joined the Air Force. The base he served at, for his entire military service, was four miles from home, Tripp said.

Another acquaintance bragged of serving on the USS Ticonderoga, but his job was recovering Apollo and Mercury space capsules.

“If the state changes the rules on qualifications, the local residents will have to make up the difference,” Tripp said.

In Derry, 917 veterans get the standard tax credit of $400, totaling $366,800. Of those, 56 also get the disabled tax credit of $2,000, for a total of $112,000. The total amount of tax credit, and the amount other taxpayers have to make up, is $478,000.

Londonderry allows veterans the full $500 tax credit along with the $2,000 offered to those who are permanently and totally disabled. Deputy Assessor Rick Brideau said that 843 veterans receive the $500 tax credit. Two surviving spouses of disabled veterans receive the $2,000 tax credit along with 21 living disabled veterans, for a total of $467,500.

But Birdsell and Baldasaro said it isn’t likely to come to that. Birdsell pointed out that both bills are contingent on being adopted by the state, and then it’s up to the municipality to adopt them. Or not.

And, she said, the veteran in question has to be 100 percent disabled. “That means they cannot work,” she emphasized.

The $12,000 was initially a concern for Birdsell and other Senators, but, she pointed out that only a miniscule number of veterans both meet the criteria for being 100 percent disabled – and own property that is taxed that highly.

The $12,000 is not an issue for Baldasaro, who agreed that “there aren’t that many veterans who are 100 percent disabled, there aren’t that many that will take the tax credit, and there aren’t that many that own property taxed at $12,000.”

But to avoid the appearance of conflict of interest, Birdsell did not vote on SB 348, and Baldasaro said he will not vote on it when it comes to a House vote.