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Florida Homestead Exemption Explained

Posted 12-08-2009 at 11:03 AM by SoFLGal

Homestead Tax Exemption
A tax exemption is an important benefit that offers you, as a Florida resident, the opportunity to save up to hundreds of dollars in your property tax bill. The homestead exemption is the most common and valuable exemption, providing savings every year you own and reside in your home.

You may be eligible for additional savings if you qualify for certain personal exemptions, such as those offered to widows, widowers and disabled persons. Organizations, usually not-for-profit, who use their properties for exempt purposes, also may qualify for savings

Agricultural use of land does not qualify for an exemption but it may allow property used for a commercial agricultural operation to be eligible for a special classification that could lower property taxes.

It is your responsibility as a property owner to file an application for a new exemption and to let us know if you change the property's use. Please carefully read this link which explains how to file and qualify to receive the exemptions to which you may be entitled. You may find our additional publications helpful in understanding appraisals and the rights of property owners. If you still have questions or would like more information, please call or visit your Property Appraiser's Office. We are here to serve you.

The Homestead Exemption Defined
A homestead exemption reduces the taxable value of real property by up to $25,000. It is an ad valorem tax exemption provided by Florida law for qualified residents who own and reside on the property as their permanent residence. Properties that receive the homestead exemption qualify under the "Save Our Homes" Amendment and may realize additional benefits.

Who is Entitled to Homestead Exemption?
Florida statutes set firm requirements for persons receiving the valuable homestead exemption. The following criteria will help you determine if you may qualify for an exemption. If you still have questions about your eligibility, please call the Property Appraiser's Office.
Individuals only are eligible for homestead exemption; corporations or business entities do not qualify.

Your deed or document establishing your ownership or beneficial interest as of January 1 must be recorded in Sarasota County Public Records before your exemption can be approved. Without this evidence, your Property Appraiser's Office is prohibited by state regulations from granting the exemption.

As of January 1 of the year for which you are filing: - You must be a permanent resident of Florida; - You must own and occupy the property as your permanent residence; - You must hold title or beneficial interest to the property.

Where, How & When to Apply
It is not necessary to file an application every year as long as the property's use and your ownership and Florida residency do not change. The following instructions apply to original applications for homestead and other exemptions:

You may request or pick up an application from one of your county property appraiser's offices listed at the end of this link.

You are required by Florida law to sign and file a new application for homestead exemption in person at your county property appraiser's office. If you prefer, you can pick up a form and complete much of the requested information in advance at your convenience, but you must sign and file in your county property appraiser's office. Please call your county property appraiser's office well in advance of the filing deadline if you have physical limitations that prevent you from coming to your county property appraiser's office.

You may file a new application for homestead exemption no later than March 1 of the year for which the exemption applies. If March 1 falls on a weekend or holiday, the deadline is the next business day. We encourage you to file your application as soon as you complete the qualifying transaction to minimize the risk of missing the March 1 deadline that is set by Florida law.

Information You Need to Bring
Filing for homestead exemption is made easy with a few simple steps and the correct documents. We are required by state law to examine proof that you own the property and that you and any other owners who occupy the property are Florida residents. You can help speed up the process and avoid making unnecessary trips by being prepared with the following information:

1. Proof of ownership Any of these items can be presented; all are not required. Please remember that your deed or document granting beneficial interest must be recorded in Sarasota County Public Records before the exemption can be approved.
Deed to property
Property tax bill
Title insurance
Agreement or contract for deed
Co-op proprietary lease
Last will and testament
TRIM Notice (Notice of Proposed Property Taxes)
Trust agreement showing beneficial interest or equitable title

2. Proof of Florida residency All owners who occupy the property are asked to show evidence of Florida residency as of January 1. The items most often presented are a Florida driver's license and a Florida voter's card.

In addition, one or more of the following items may be requested:

Florida vehicle registration
Declaration of Domicile dated prior to January 1
Previous year's income tax return filed from a Florida address
Registration from your child's school
Previous filing of a Florida Intangible Tax return
Professional license issued by state of Florida, i.e., doctor, teacher, attorney, etc.
Employer's statement
Proof of your marital status
Previous year's filing for another property in Florida
3. Your Social Security number. Florida law makes this a mandatory requirement for every applicant. Married persons are required to present Social Security numbers for both spouses even when property is titled in one name.

4. A permanent visa card (for resident aliens) A temporary visa card, with official assurance that permanent residence status is approved, can be accepted.
The "Save Our Homes" Amendment
Florida voters in 1992 approved Constitutional Amendment 10, known as the "Save Our Homes" Amendment. The amendment, which affects homestead exempt property, limits the yearly assessed value increases to no more than 3 percent of the prior year's assessment or the percentage change in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less, but never more than the current year's just (market) value.
The amendment's limits become effective in the year following the exemption approval and apply as long as you continue to own and reside on the property as your permanent homestead. If you sell or transfer title to your property, it will be assessed at market value. (Transactions between husband and wife do not negate the amendment's benefits.) If you make changes, additions or improvements to property receiving the homestead exemption, the changes will be assessed at market value even though the amendment continues to apply to the original assessment.
Manufactured and Mobile Homes Assessments and Exemptions
You may purchase a Real Property (RP) sticker or Mobile Home (MH) sticker from the Sarasota County Tax Collector. The sticker must be attached to your mobile home. If you do not have a current MH sticker on January 1, your mobile home will be assessed as tangible personal property.
If you own the home and land: The homestead exemption is available for mobile home owners who also own the land on which the mobile home is permanently affixed. Such homes are assessed as real property (real estate) and are entitled to the same exemption benefits as any other real property parcel. Most mobile homes matching these criteria are located in communities developed especially for mobile homes or in parks owned by homeowners' cooperatives.
If you own the home and rent the land:
Personal exemptions that reduce the taxable value by $500 per exemption are available to Florida residents who own their mobile home and rent the land where the mobile home is situated if they qualify for an exemption as a widow or widower, or a disabled civilian or disabled veteran. These exemptions apply only to the assessed value of the mobile home attachments, such as cabanas, carports and screened porches. Total exemptions apply only to real property and are not available for mobile home owners on rented land.

Other Exemptions
Personal Exemptions
Personal exemptions that reduce the taxable value of property by $500 per exemption are available to qualified Florida residents. Certain civilians and veterans with permanent and/or total disabilities may qualify for 100 percent exemption from ad valorem taxes. In addition to proof of property ownership and Florida residency, you will be asked to provide other information specific to the exemption you are requesting. Some exemptions have income limits. The March 1 filing deadline applies to all exemption applications. Please call your county property appraiser's office if you think you are eligible to receive one of the following exemptions:
Widow or Widower
- Married at time of spouse's death
- Not remarried
- Able to present date of spouse's death and/or death certificate

Civilian Disability (total and permanent disability)
Blind Persons (legally blind)
Disabled Veterans
(10 percent or more service-connected disability)
Organizational Exemptions
Organizational exemptions are granted to organizations that own and predominantly or exclusively use their properties for exempt purposes. As is the case with all exemptions, these are not automatic; organizations must apply for them by March 1.
Charitable, which use provides such service of social value to the community that its interruption could result in expenditures of public funds;
Religious, for all properties owned by churches and used for religious purposes;
Scientific, for scientific research and operations;
Literary, including not-for-profit cultural and arts groups;
Educational, may include property used by a private school when the school is eligible for certain accreditation.
You may be eligible for other exemptions. Please call your county property appraiser's office if you have questions about your particular situation.

Agricultural Use Classification
The Agricultural Use Classification, commonly referred to as the "green belt" assessment, while not an exemption, may result in lower property tax bills for qualified property owners. If your land is used for a bona fide commercially viable operation producing an agricultural product that is actively marketed, you may request an agricultural filing at the Property Appraiser's Office. For more information, please refer to our link on The Agricultural Use Classification.
Important Dates for Exemptions
January 1
Your property's value is determined according to its status and condition, and your residency and eligibility are established as of January 1.
January & February
The period when most people file applications for homestead and other exemptions and special classification.
March 1
Filing deadline for all exemptions and agricultural classification.
March 2
The first day for filing applications for next year.

Typical Savings with Homestead Exemption
With Homestead Exemption
Assessed Value $ 100,000
Less Homestead Exemption $ 25,000
Taxable Value $ 75,000
Times Millage Rate* x .017
Tax Due $ 1,275

Without Homestead Exemption
Assessed Value $100,000
No Homestead Exemption - 0
Taxable Value $100,000
Times Millage Rate* x .017
Tax Due $ 1,700

In this typical scenario, the property owner with homestead exemption saves $425 in one year.
*The rate of .017 (17 mills) is offered for illustration purposes only; the actual amount is set by taxing authorities and varies depending on the property's location.

Answers to Questions About Exemptions
These general answers to FAQ's are provided for your convenience and quick reference. If you need detailed information about a specific matter, please call your county property appraiser's office.

Does the homestead exemption go with the person or property?
The homestead exemption stays with the property through the current year or for as long as you continue to own and occupy the home as a permanent Florida resident. If you buy and occupy a new home as of January 1, it is your responsibility to file a new application for your new property before March 1. In turn, the person who purchased your home is responsible for his or her own filing to keep receiving that property's homestead exemption.

Is it necessary to file for homestead exemption every year?
After you receive the first homestead exemption, it will be renewed automatically as long as you continue to own and occupy the same residence as a permanent Florida resident.

Any change, including the conversion to rental property, that results in the residence no longer being used as your homestead, may cause you to lose the homestead and other exemptions.

If property is owned by more than one person, must all owners file in person?
When the owners are husband and wife, either can file in person and only one is required to sign the application. The spouse filing the application must supply documents establishing proof of ownership and Florida residency for both spouses. When tenants in common and joint owners apply, every owner who resides on the property and claims an exemption must file in person.

Do I have to be a U.S. citizen to qualify?
United States citizenship is not required for homestead exemption. You will need to present a permanent residence visa card or other document granting you permanent residence status dated by January 1 of the year for which you are filing.

What if the property is held in trust?
A homestead exemption can be granted if you have beneficial interest or equitable title to the property and meet all other qualifications.

How soon - and how much - can I expect to benefit with homestead exemption?
Savings from an exemption begin in the first year for which the exemption is approved. While there always are benefits attached to a homestead exemption, exactly how much and how soon they are realized by the property owner will depend on the millage rate that is established, adjustments that are made for current market value, and other factors.

What if I miss the March 1 filing deadline?
Unfortunately, Florida law does not allow deadline extensions except in unusual cases with extenuating circumstances. Please ask the county property appraiser's office for details.
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