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November 17, 2022


Issues for first responder families and property tax exemptions

Taking advantage of the many tax exemptions available to you can be a good idea. These can reduce or even eliminate your tax obligations. One common exemption involves property taxes, and an exemption can mean you do not have to pay a portion of your property tax bill.

Unfortunately, knowing if and when you might qualify for certain property tax exemptions can be challenging. This is one issue that families of Border Patrol agents in Texas are currently facing.

Homestead tax exemption 

Under Texas laws, the spouses of first responders killed in the line of duty can receive a tax exemption for the surviving spouse’s residence homestead. 

Unfortunately, two spouses of fallen Border Patrol agents are learning that they do not qualify for the exemption.

After the deaths of their spouses, the two women filed for the exemption and expected to be reimbursed for taxes they had paid in the year their spouses passed away. It seemed like little more than a formality, as there was no question that either agent died in the line of duty.

However, the appraisal district delivered the news that federal Border Patrol agents do not fall under the state’s definition of first responders. Therefore, the two women were not eligible for the tax exemption. 

Seeking legislative changes

Today, many individuals and lawmakers are fighting to amend the tax code so that surviving spouses of Border Patrol agents can receive the property tax exemption.

Supporters argue that Border Patrol agents perform many of the same services as those the law does recognize as a first responders, including many:

  • Peace officers
  • Jail guards
  • Correctional employees
  • Volunteer firefighters
  • Ambulance operators

Adding agents who protect our land borders and ports of entry makes sense, according to those looking to change the current laws, even if they are federal employees.

Whether the proposed changes will move forward or not remains to be seen. In the meantime, families in this situation or others related to property tax exemptions would be wise to seek out qualified financial and legal guidance to ensure they do not overlook options and limitations while filing taxes.

State and Local Taxes