March 1 Is the Deadline for Applying for the Homestead Exemption

Friday, February 19, 2010 at 06:12AM

If you became a resident of Florida before January 1, an important deadline looms within the next 2 weeks.  This is the deadline to apply for one of the biggest advantages of being a Florida resident - the homestead exemption.  This post discusses what it takes to qualify for the homestead exemption, how to applyfor it and reviews its benefits.

Benefits.  Those persons able to take advantage of the homestead exemption are rewarded with a significant reduction in property taxes.  In Florida, every county's Property Appraiser is required to determine the assessed value of every piece of property in the county.  The Appraiser calculates the "Just" or "Fair Market" value of your property which is the price he believes your property would sell for in the open market under normal conditions.  He then subtracts the typical costs incurred in a sale of your property to arrive at the Assessed Value.

For homestead property, the first $25,000 of the Assessed Value is exempt from all taxation.  Also, the $25,000 amount between $50,000 and $75,000 of the Assessed Value is exempt from all property taxes except those levied by school districts.  You can calculate the savings by multiplying the exempt amounts by the county's millage rate.

You also qualify for the benefits of the "Save Our Homes Amendment" which limits the annual increase in the taxable value for homestead property to a maximum of 3% each year.  This can be a huge benefit in times of great appreciation (remember those days?).  No matter how much the market value of your home increases in any year, the amount that your property tax is based on can only increase by 3%.

How to Qualify.  To qualify for the homestead exemption, you must on January 1 of the year for which you are filing be a permanent resident of Florida, own and occupy the property as your permanent residence, and hold title or beneficial interest to the property.

The January 1 date is important.  If you move into the house on January 2, meet every other requirement, and spend every moment for the rest of the year in the home, you will not be entitled to the homestead tax exemption.  You have to be living there on January 1.

Applying for the Homestead Exemption.  If, as of January 1, you meet the qualifications listed above, you may apply for the homestead exemption at the property appraiser's office in your county.  The property appraiser will provide a form for you to complete.  You must sign the application in person at the appraiser's office.  The application must be filed no later than March 1 of the year for wihich the exemption applies.  All persons named on the deed must sign the application, except in the case of husband and wife where only one signature is required.  When applying for the homestead exemption, each of you must provide proof of ownership of the property and proof of Florida residency.

Proof of Ownership.  The following items can be used to provide proof of ownership of the property: Deed (must be recorded in the public records at the time of application), Property Tax Bill, Title Insurance Policy, among other documents.

Proof of Residency.  To show evidence of your Florida residency, you can furnish a valid Florida drivers license or Florida identification card.  Each must have been issued prior to January 1.  You must also furnish one or more of the following items:  Declaration of Domicile (dated prior to January 1), Florida vehicle registration or the previous year's federal tax return showing a Florida residence.  If you are a resident alien, a permanent visa card or temporary visa card with official assurance that permanent resident status is approved must be presented.

Remember, you must apply no later than March 1 or you will lose a valuable aspect of Florida residency. You can read more about this and other Florida residency topics in The Official Snowbird's Guide To Becoming A Florida Resident.