(1) The property owner of record or the property owner's agent must make application to the local department office to receive the PTAP benefit provided for in 15-6-305, MCA.
(2) The benefit is administered through a reduced property tax rate that applies to the first $200,000 or less of the appraised value of the applicant's residential real property.
(a) The reduced property tax rate does not apply to separately described or assessed parcels of land that do not support the primary residential improvements, regardless of whether those parcels of land are contiguous with or adjacent to the primary residential property.
(b) Eligible property may include a mobile or manufactured home and the separately assessed land upon which the mobile or manufactured home is located only if the mobile or manufactured home and land are both owned by the applicant. To be eligible, the property must be:
(i) owned by the applicant; or
(ii) under contract for deed; and
(iii) used as the applicant's primary residence.
(3) A taxpayer's primary residence is a dwelling in which the taxpayer can demonstrate they lived at least 7 months of the year for which the assistance is claimed. The primary residence must be the only residence for which the taxpayer claims property tax assistance in a given tax year. The department will apply the full year benefit to the primary residence when:
(a) a qualifying applicant owns and occupies the primary residence at the time the tax roll is provided to the county treasurer for billing. If the property ownership changes between that time and the end of the calendar year, the benefit remains on the property for the full tax year; or
(b) in the case of a separately assessed mobile or manufactured home, a qualifying first time applicant receives a classification and appraisal notice from the department and applies for the property tax assistance within 30 days from the date on the notice affirming that their home is their primary residence.
(4) If a qualifying applicant owns and lives in one Montana dwelling for less than 7 months during the tax year, and in another Montana dwelling for less than 7 months of the same tax year, the time in both dwellings can be combined to meet the 7-month requirement. When a change in the property ownership occurs prior to the time the tax roll is provided to the county treasurer's office for billing, the department will apply the benefit as follows:
(a) if a qualifying applicant owned and occupied the property for less than 7 months of the tax year, the department will remove the benefit from the property. The benefit may be transferred to another primary residence, if the qualifying applicant purchases one, as provided in 15-6-301, MCA; or
(b) if a qualifying applicant owned and occupied the property for at least 7 months of the tax year, the department will apply the benefit for the number of days that the qualifying applicant owned and occupied the property, based on the date of sale. The property will be assessed at the full tax rate for the portion of the year following the date of sale.
(5) An applicant may demonstrate the 7-month occupancy requirement in (4) with such indicators including, but not limited to:
(a) the mailing address for receipt of bills and correspondence;
(b) the address on file with the applicant's employer as the place of residence; and
(c) the mailing address listed on the applicant's federal and state tax returns, driver's license, car registration, hunting and fishing licenses, or voter registration.
(6) A temporary stay in a nursing home or similar facility will not change an applicant's primary residence for the purposes of the PTAP.
(7) The PTAP benefit does not transfer to the new owner of the dwelling.
(8) A property owner of record or the property owner's agent must file an application that is postmarked by April 15 of the year for which the assistance is first claimed. Applications received after that date will be processed and entered into the department's income and eligibility verification process for the following year.
(9) The department may accept applications through regular or electronic mail, in person, or by telephone. If by telephone, the employee shall verify that the applicant has affirmed their eligibility and affirmed that the dwelling is their primary residence by signing the form on the applicant's behalf and initialing the signature.
(10) An applicant is not required to reapply once the department has entered their application into its verification process except as provided in (3) and (4).
(11) The April 15 application deadline is waived if a first-time applicant forwards an application to the department within 30 days from the date on the classification and appraisal notice.
(12) The department may waive the April 15 application deadline at any time the department's local office or the Office of Taxpayer Assistance consults with local aging services or disability offices and confirms a hardship case exists. The department must document its finding.
(13) The department may coordinate with the Social Security Administration and the Veterans Affairs Administration to verify the income and eligibility of applicants and participants.
(14) Each year the department will:
(a) verify the qualifying income and eligibility of PTAP applicants and participants;
(b) grant or deny the applicant's benefit;
(c) advise applicants and participants of the department's determination in writing; and
(d) advise taxpayers of their right to appeal the department's determination to the State Tax Appeal Board within 30 days of receiving a determination letter.
(15) The information PTAP applicants provide the department is subject to the false swearing penalties established in 45-7-202, MCA. The department:
(a) may investigate the information provided in an application and an applicant's continued eligibility;
(b) may request an applicant to verify the occupancy of their primary residence; and
(c) will review, on a case-by-case basis, any applicant or participant for whom its verification process finds no source of income and record its findings for future use.
(16) The department may address unusual circumstances of ownership and income that arise in administering this program such as:
(a) confusion when a spouse dies and the other spouse is not yet on the property's deed; or
(b) one-time increases in income used for funeral or medical expenses.