Florida homeowners can take advantage of a homestead exemption on their primary residential properties. The exemption protects your home from creditors and also provides some tax relief. All legal Florida residents are eligible to homestead their owner-occupied homes. To file for the homestead exemption, you'll need certain documents and must adhere to specific deadlines.
Homestead Exemption Basics
Property Tax Breaks
The homestead exemption reduces your property tax liability by excluding the first $25,000 of the home's value. In addition to the first $25,000, you'll also receive a second $25,000 exemption if your home is valued between $50,000 and $75,000. However, the second exemption doesn't apply to school taxes. There are other smaller exemptions available as well, including exemptions for widows, veterans, elderly, blind or disabled individuals. These exemptions range from $500 to $5,000. You'll need documented proof for any additional exemption you want to claim, such as a disability award letter from the Social Security Administration or a spouse's death certificate.
Limiting Assessment Increases
The annual increases on the assessed value of a homestead property is capped at 3 percent or the change in the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. When the home is sold, the exemption is removed and the value is reassessed at the fair market value.
Your homestead property is also protected from creditors. If you are sued and the creditor wins, he won't be able to touch your home. However, you'll need to take occupancy prior to any recorded judgments.
The homestead exemption is available to you if you meet certain conditions by January 1. You must be a Florida resident occupying the home you legally own. If you took ownership or became a resident after January 1, you won't be entitled to the exemption for the year. However, you'll be eligible for next year.
If you or your spouse have a homestead in any other county, state or country, you'll need to surrender that exemption before filing in your current county.
You will need specific documents to file for homestead, including:
- Proof of ownership, such as a copy of the deed.
- A state-issued driver's license or identification card.
Plus either one of the following:
- Florida voter's registration card.
- A recorded declaration of domicile.
or two of the following displaying your address:
- Employment verification, such as a W-2 form.
- Previous residency exemption termination documents.
- Proof your dependent children are registered for school.
- Federal income tax return.
- Bank statements or checking account statements mailed to you.
- Utility bills.
Completing the Application
You can pick up a paper application from your local county property appraiser's office in person or download one online. Certain counties, such as Miami-Dade, allow you to file online. Although the application form may differ among counties, all forms request the same basic information about each owner. Information you'll need includes:
- Current employers.
- Addresses listed on your last IRS return.
- Date you become a permanent Florida resident.
- Date you began occupying the home.
- Social Security numbers for each owner if you are married. You must provide your spouse even if you isn't on the deed or filing for the exemption.
Mail or return the completed application along with your documents to the property appraiser's office.
The deadline for filing homestead is March 1 of the year you are claiming the exemption. The property appraiser’s office will still consider homestead exemption applications filed after the deadline. Although some counties may accept late application, they won't necessary be approved.
Once you file, you don't need to refile each year. The exemption is automatically applied.