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Disabled POW Exemption

CHANGE IN THE LAW

In the November 2, 2010 election, the voters passed House Joint Resolution 15. The measure amends Article X, Section 6 of the Missouri Constitution to read, in pertinent part:

All property, real and personal, of the state, counties and other political subdivisions, and nonprofit cemeteries, and all real property used as a homestead as defined by law of any citizen of this state who is a former prisoner of war, as defined by law, and who has a total service-connected disability, shall be exempt from taxation . . . . [New language bolded]

While other provisions of this section indicate that the general assembly "may" exempt property by general law, this particular provision mandates the exemption without requiring any action of the general assembly. In fact, pursuant to Article XII, Section 2(b) of the Missouri Constitution, the measure will take effect thirty days after the election approving it. The legislature will not have time to specifically define "homestead" for this purpose until after it becomes law.

Until such a definition is forthcoming, assessors should interpret the provision, which originated from a joint resolution, to ascertain the intent of the legislature from the words that are used. United Pharmacal Co. of Mo., Inc. v. Mo. Bd. of Pharmacy, 208 S. W.3d 907, 909 (Mo. banc 2006).  "This goal is achieved by giving the language used its plain and ordinary meaning." Id. at 909. Where a word "... is not defined in the statute, its meaning is ascertained from the dictionary definition." Id. at 912.  Black's Law Dictionary (7th Ed.) defines "homestead" as 'The house, outbuildings and adjoining land owned and occupied by a person or family as a residence."

Consequently, to qualify, the applicant for such an exemption must 1) be a former prisoner of war and 2) a veteran of any branch of the armed forces of the United States or this state who became one hundred percent disabled as a result of his or her military service, and must 3) own and occupy the homestead as a primary residence.

PROOF REQUIRED

County records should demonstrate that the Applicant is the owner of the homestead. The applicant for this exemption should provide the assessor with the following evidence:

  1. Documents or sworn affirmation that the applicant occupies the homestead as his or her primary residence;

  2. A letter from the United States Government or United States Department of Veterans Affairs as proof of service-connected total disability;

    AND

  3. (a) Form DD 214 (Discharge Certificate) showing Ex-Prisoner of War Status;

    OR

    (b) A letter from the Military Personnel Records Center(1) [also known as National Archives and Records Administration (NARA)] or the United States Department of Veteran Affairs indicating that the applicant is former prisoner of war.
Please refer to the Missouri Constitution for a complete, unabbreviated version of the amended Article X, Section 6.

TO APPLY FOR EXEMPTION from real property tax, Please fill out the application form and provide the evidence as required by law.

(1) Note: Federal POW databases, which include World War II, Korea, and Vietnam, may be searched at www.archives.gov or, more specifically at http://aad.archives.gov/aad/series-list.jsp?cat=GP24. Obviously, the names must be spelled as listed in the databases.

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