Jan Partee Simpson has lived in Dorchester County, South Carolina, for most of her 64 years and in her little house for the past 25. She’s determined to stay there — living independently, hosting her four grandchildren — as long as she can afford it.
That’s why she spent about 50 hours this year processing and answering resident questions at the Dorchester County human resources office in St. George, northwest of Charleston. The work earned her about $400.
“It helps out tremendously,” Simpson says.
She was one of 36 county residents 60 and older who in 2022–23 offset their property taxes by performing light-duty work. The county gave back in total more than $9,400 in property taxes.
Similar programs are emerging across the country, enabling older residents to offset part of their property taxes by undertaking work for the districts that levy them.
Some states formally allow local taxing districts to offer work-off programs; others aren’t even aware their counties and school districts are doing so. Counties, towns and school districts are learning from each other how to design and implement the programs.
The AARP Bulletin found the programs scattered nationwide. Among the states where local taxing districts — counties, cities or other government entities — have established programs: Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Pennsylvania, South Carolina and Washington.
Often, homeowners age 60 and up can volunteer for specified tasks and have the value of that work applied to offset their property taxes. The work-off benefits are usually in addition to homestead exemptions and other adjustments that reduce property taxes for older homeowners. And there are generally caps on how much a taxpayer can receive in offset property taxes.
Take Massachusetts, as an example: Numerous towns and cities across the state — including Boston — have active programs. For taxpayers, the value can go beyond the purely financial. In the northeast Massachusetts town of Amesbury, Robert Suggs one year reduced his town property tax bill by helping run the public access boat ramp. He now greets and guides visitors at its senior center. Working 100 hours in a year earned him $1,500 off his taxes.
“It gets me out of the house,” says Suggs, a 71-year-old stroke survivor and veteran. “It keeps me social.”