NJ Anchor

R’ Baruch Perlman was grabbing a quick coffee break when a flash of green on the bulletin board caught his eye. The “l’to’eles harabbim” sign said that applications for a certain new grant from the State of New Jersey had to be filed by the end of February or the benefits would be forfeited. The sign included a copy of a green mailing supposedly sent out about the 2019 ANCHOR Benefit. Come to think of it, he recalled seeing something of the sort in his mailbox but he’d figured it was junk mail. Clearly, he was wrong.

What is NJ ANCHOR? Who is eligible for these funds, and how does one apply for them?

Introducing ANCHOR

Enacted in June 2022, the new Affordable NJ Communities for Homeowners and Renters (ANCHOR) is a property tax-relief program replacing the state’s original Homestead Benefit program. ANCHOR offers property tax relief for twice as many homeowners versus Homestead while adding a new benefit for renters. The state projects that nearly 1.2 million homeowners will receive an ANCHOR benefit of $1,000–$1,500, and over 900,000 renters will receive $450. (You’ll have to ask Trenton politicians why renters are eligible for property tax relief.)

Benefit Amounts

New Jersey homeowners with incomes under $150,001 will receive $1,500, New Jersey homeowners with incomes between $150,001 and $250,000 will receive $1,000, and New Jersey residential renters with incomes under $150,001 can get $450. It’s a bit confusing, but the ANCHOR filing in 2023 is to rebate costs incurred back in 2019. Therefore, the grant’s income cutoffs are based on 2019 gross income, and the occupancy requirements are as of October 1, 2019.

Occupancy Details

Note that homeowners in this grant’s context means those living in owner-occupied houses; owning a vacation home, a “second home,” or investment property does not qualify. If you lived in more than one property in New Jersey, only file the application for the property that was your main home on October 1, 2019. There’s only one benefit per household, whether headed by a single person or a married couple. Renters must have had a lease and actually paid rent. This requirement means that kids living with their parents can’t claim $450 each. Chaval but fair.

Couples

Roommates who shared an apartment, however, can each claim their own renter’s benefit if they were both on the lease. They file for ANCHOR separately, and their income is counted individually. The same goes for unconnected people who lived in a house they co-own. A married couple living together in an owned or rented home, however, can only get one benefit, and their incomes are combined too, so it’s much easier for them to lose even the one grant. This ANCHOR policy penalizes marriage, but it is what it is.

BMG Renters Won’t Get This

Since this is a property tax-relief program, tenants living in properties exempt from property taxes can’t get the $450. This exclusion covers residences owned by religious and nonprofit organizations, including on-campus apartments at private nonprofit colleges and universities. So, those living in BMG student apartments or houses owned by shuls and schools are out, presumably. Tenants with housing subsidies (HUD Section 8) who live in buildings that pay property taxes (as most residential buildings do) qualify for ANCHOR as long as they paid some rent out of pocket.

Green Mailers Help

Many homeowners received the green ANCHOR notices containing the ID and PIN required to apply. Assuming the information on it is correct and you’ve filed 2019 tax returns, applying for ANCHOR should take just minutes online or by calling an automated system at 877-658-2972. If you didn’t get the mailer, you can search for your PIN online on the state’s website. If no PIN or ID was issued to a homeowner, no tax returns were filed, or there’s been a status change such as divorce or death, a paper application is required. Otherwise, apply either online or by mail.

Tenants were not sent mailers and do not need an ID or PIN to apply. There’s no phone option for them either. They need to apply online or download and return a paper application. The paper application is pretty brief and simple, assuming you have your 2019 tax return handy. Things can get quirky if someone plans to split the ANCHOR payment among multiple owners or tenant roommates, there were status changes, or there are errors in information the state has on file. In that case, you’ll need to visit the state’s website or try to reach someone on the phone.

Getting More Information

The website has FAQs, examples, and the ANCHOR paper applications to be downloaded and returned via mail. The site is nj.gov/treasury/taxation/anchor/index , and the ANCHOR benefit hotline is 888-238-1233. If and when a benefit has been issued, the online system will tell you the benefit amount and the date it was issued. The system will also indicate whether the benefit was applied to your property tax bill (for Homestead) or issued as a check or direct deposit to your bank account.

Keep an Eye on the Clock

The state says all ANCHOR payments will be issued via mailed check or direct deposits beginning late spring 2023. It will be interesting to see how efficiently payments go out, considering that ANCHOR is a large and new benefit. There’s a lot of behind-the-scenes work that officials will need to do. Either way, the deadline will probably not be extended past February 28, 2023, since that day itself is the third extension. Those filing via snail mail can rest easy, however, knowing that ANCHOR applications postmarked by February 28 will be accepted.


Want to dig deeper?

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