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Legislation aims to provide tax relief for home heating

North Country Congressman Bill Owens reintroduced legislation this week aimed at providing tax relief for homeowners struggling with high energy costs.

The Democrat from New York's 23rd Congressional District wants the federal government to provide a refundable tax credit to residents of northern New York for heating costs exceeding $1,500 annually.

Owens' predecessor, Republican John McHugh, fought to pass similar legislation several years ago.

According to Owens, the Home Energy Affordability Tax Relief Act would allow homeowners to claim up to $500 in tax credits, if they spend more than $1,500 to heat their homes.

For those whose costs do not exceed $1,500, the legislation allows them to claim a refund of one-third of total heating costs.

"It's all focused on the fact that people in my district and in the communities we live in have very high fuel costs," Owens said. "As the price of fuel goes up, legislation like this really needs to be enacted."

Owens says the HEATR Act is geared toward middle-class families in rural areas like northern New York. To qualify for the tax credit, individuals cannot make more than $50,000 annually - for joint filers, that figure cannot exceed $100,000.

The program is similar in nature to LIHEAP - the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program.

Owens notes that LIHEAP is facing cuts nearing $2.5 billion in President Barack Obama's 2012 budget.

"I think for people who live in northern New York and other rural, northern communities, getting a tax break on home heating oil is very important, because I do think there will be significant reductions in those assistance programs," he said.

Owens hopes his legislation, if passed, will combat fluctuating home heating prices in the face of "enormous profits" at national energy companies.

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