Don’t Miss the Homestead Exemption Deadline!

It is the time of year that I get many questions from clients regarding homestead exemption. Are they eligible? How and where do they file? How much money will they save? When is the deadline for filing?

The Florida homestead exemption is a fantastic property tax break for eligible homeowners. It can reduce the taxable value of your home (for real property tax purposes) by as much as $50,000 – and once you establish your homestead exemption, your assessed value cannot increase by more than 3% per year – keeping increases in your annual real estate tax bill low. You can expect annual savings of about $800 per year on your tax bill.

To qualify for homestead exemption, you must meet specific requirements as of January 1 of the year in which you are filing. You must be a permanent Florida resident, you must own and occupy the property in question as your permanent residence (providing the recording information on the deed to the property), and you must be a U.S. citizen or be a permanent resident (green card holder).

You must file your homestead exemption application no later than March 1 of the tax year for which you are requesting the exemption. Most Florida counties permit you to file your application on-line – utilizing a link on the county website. You can also print out the application and submit it by mail or in person at the Property Appraiser’s office. Be prepared! The application requires that you show that your drivers license and voter registration are registered at the permanent residence address. Take care of your change of address for your driver’s license, auto registration, and voter registration so that everything matches – before you submit your application. You will also be required to provide information regarding where you filed your last income tax return as well as the date you occupied the property as your permanent residence.

Another big bonus – you may be able to “port” your homestead from your previous Florida residence. You have two years to transfer a Homestead Assessment Difference from one property to another. Port is limited to a person’s ownership share and cannot exceed $500,000. You can port to a new homestead – whether the new property is more or less expensive than your prior residence. It is recommended that you submit your portability application with your homestead exemption application. Like the homestead exemption application – the portability application can be found on the Property Appraiser website and may be completed on-line – or submitted by mail or in person. Porting your prior homestead assessment difference may further reduce your assessment – and your real estate taxes.

Some “porting” rules to be aware of. My clients (a couple that were recently married) purchased a new home together. Each had sold a permanent residence in Florida within the two years prior to their submitting the homestead exemption and portability applications for their new home. The Property Appraiser advised that they could only port the homestead from one of their prior residences – the prior homesteads could not be combined. The Property Appraiser will port the homestead assessment difference that is larger – so they will get the maximum benefit available.

New permanent residents to Florida applying for the homestead exemption need to be aware that they must terminate any homestead exemption benefits they may still have on their out of state property. Many new Florida residents keep their out-of-state property – converting it to a second home. However, many states have some type of homestead benefit – that reduces the taxes on the property if occupied as a primary residence. New York, New Jersey and Massachusetts have such programs – and the Property Appraiser in your new Florida county will require confirmation that you are no longer entitled to the homestead benefits in your former state or residence before approving a homestead exemption for your new Florida residence.