By David Levinsky/Burlington County Times
Paul Reuter remembered hearing something about a new tax deduction for veterans two summers ago, when state lawmakers were debating whether to enact legislation to raise the gas tax for the first time in decades.
But it wasn’t until earlier this year that he learned that the $3,000 exemption was now available, and that there are steps veterans needed to take to be able to claim it on their 2017 returns.
Reuter wasn’t the only one.
“I was at the gym on Joint Base McGuire-Dix-Lakehurst and was talking to some other (military) retirees there. Some of them knew about it; some of them didn’t,” Reuter said Monday. “I’ve tried to pass the word around, but a lot of veterans don’t know.”
Among those who was unaware of the required steps was Assemblyman Ryan Peters, a former Navy SEAL who was recently sworn into office representing the 8th Legislative District. After speaking to Reuter, the Republican lawmaker reached out to other veterans and learned that they too were confused about how to collect the benefit.
“The lack of clarity is disheartening,” Peters said. “I don’t want veterans to be discouraged from collecting the deduction because they aren’t sure how to navigate the process to do so.”
With that in mind, Peters and fellow 8th District lawmakers Sen. Dawn Marie Addiego and Assemblyman Joe Howarth wrote a letter to acting Treasurer Elizabeth Muoio asking her to launch a promotional campaign to help publicize the new benefit and also clear up confusion about how veterans should file for it.
“Tax season is approaching, and a brand-new $3,000 exemption is available to all veterans who served our country with honor. Although this is an important step in paying back our veterans for the sacrifices they made, it has come to our attention that a great deal of them do not know how to receive the exemption or aren’t even aware of it,” the lawmakers wrote. “There should not be one veteran who files their taxes and receives their return without ever hearing a word about the Veteran Income Tax Exemption. The state must take a more comprehensive approach in addressing its rollout.”
Among the steps veterans need to take is to fill out and return a veterans tax exemption submission form to the Division of Taxation, along with documentation from the military, such as a Certificate of Release or Discharge from Active Duty or DD-214.
The submission form can be found on the department’s website. It and the certifying documents can be sent to the division by mail, fax or by a secure online upload feature on the website.
Addiego, who was integral in getting the veterans exemption added to the 2016 gas tax legislation, said the Treasury Department should try to notify every veteran about the tax break, which is available to any vet living in New Jersey who was honorably discharged or released from service under honorable circumstances.
The exemption is intended to assist New Jersey’s approximately 400,000 veterans. It was part of other tax reductions, including a small sales tax reduction, an enhanced retirement income exemption and an increased earned income tax credit. Those reductions were intended to help make the state more tax-friendly, despite the 28-cent gas tax increase.
“Providing the $3,000 tax exemption to the men and women who bravely served our country is a great first step, but we need to make sure everyone of our veterans is aware of it and ultimately collects it,” Addiego said.
To assist veterans, the 8th District office has created its own step-by-step directions, which the lawmakers intend to distribute via social media and email.
Howarth believes that their effort will benefit the over 30,000 veterans who live in Burlington County and other parts of the 8th District, but that the Treasury Department could help ensure veterans statewide are aware of the benefit.
Reuter said the effort is worthwhile, particularly in a county like Burlington with so many veterans.
“A lot of times there are things like this out there, but you just don’t know about it,” he said.
For more information about the exemption,
visit state.nj.us/treasury/taxation/military/vetexemption.shtml or call 609-292-6400.