Remind clients who recently bought a primary home in Florida not to miss the Homestead Exemption filing deadline of March 1 – it could cost them thousands of dollars.

PLANT CITY, Fla. – If you’ve recently acquired a home in Florida and missed the Homestead Exemption filing deadline, it could cost you thousands, according to Hillsborough County Property Appraiser Bob “Coach” Henriquez.

All Floridians should be aware of the Homestead Exemption and the Save Our Homes Amendment. As the March 1 annual filing deadline approaches, many homeowners who qualify for these significant tax breaks risk missing out.

New homeowners in Florida should get acquainted with what the laws are, and how they are administered.

Under the Homestead Exemption, Florida law allows up to $50,000 to be deducted from the assessed value of a primary/permanent residence. The first $25,000 of value is entirely exempt. The second $25,000 exemption applies to the value between $50,000–$75,000 and does not include a benefit on the school tax. This means $50,000 of a home’s value will be subtracted for the purposes of assessing property taxes. A $200,000 home will be taxed as if it were valued at $150,000, a 25% reduction in taxable value.

“In order to protect against any future market-influenced increases, a new homeowner should file for a homestead exemption,” said Henriquez. “With so many people relocating to Hillsborough County in recent years, and many of them choosing to buy a home here, we want to make sure our residents are aware of the homestead exemption and the tax savings available to them. The Florida Constitution guarantees a property owner’s ability to receive a tax-savings exemption on their homestead. Everyone who is eligible should take advantage of this opportunity.”

Homeowners can apply the Homestead Exemption to their primary permanent residence. Any additional properties are taxed at the full assessed value of the property.

After receiving the Homestead Exemption in the first year, the Save Our Homes amendment to the Florida Constitution, which went into effect in 1995, caps the annual increase in the assessed value of the home at 3% or the inflation rate (as measured by the Consumer Price Index), whichever is less. Once you’ve qualified for the Homestead Exemption, you don’t need to file for it again.

This is critical in Florida where property values have been increasing by double digits. Even if a home’s value increases by 20%, the assessed value for property tax calculations may rise by no more than 3%. The accumulated discount in assessed property value over many years can be hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Unfortunately, many homeowners miss out on these discounts. It happens frequently when people move into a new home, but the exemption is not applied at the time of the sale. It can happen when homeowners move into a property that was once an investment property.

Marilyn Martinez, with the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s Office, said, “The most common issue is not knowing. And we’re trying to bridge that gap. We want people to know that these discounts exist for them. Taxes accumulate quickly for people who miss out for two, three or four years. The good thing is that it’s free. They don’t have to pay to file.”

The application for Homestead Exemption can be completed electronically on the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s website. To apply, homeowners must establish Hillsborough County as their legal domicile and reside on the property as of January 1, 2024.

They need to show proof of Florida residency and provide Social Security numbers for the spouse and any owner who resides on the property. Owners of mobile homes should provide the title or registration to the mobile home and the deed to the property on which it sits.

The statutory filing deadline is March 1 with late-filed applications considered up to the 25th day after the mailing of the yearly Notice of Proposed Property Taxes (TRIM), which is typically mailed in August. After that period expires, Florida law does not permit the county property appraiser to accept an application for that calendar year.

There is a silver lining for non-homesteaded properties. There is a 10% cap on the increase of real property assessment each year (which similarly doesn’t apply to the school board portion of property taxes). It should be noted that the assessed value for non-homestead properties may increase 10% even in years when the market value remains the same, referred to as “recapture,” when the accumulation of cap savings has fallen behind the market value.

It is also important to note that those who receive the benefit, but are not eligible for the Homestead Exemption, risk significant penalties and could face a lien on their home. Examples include instances where a spouse has simultaneously applied the Homestead Exemption to another property or the property owner maintains their primary residence in another state. The owner must also be a U.S. citizen or permanent resident. Active-duty military may apply by showing proof of Florida residency.

There are other exemptions available to homeowners, including those for the disabled, blind, widows and widowers, and military veterans. Consult the Hillsborough County Property Appraiser’s website or any county property appraiser’s office for the rules and information on how to file electronically.

Copyright © 2024, The Plant City Observer (Plant City, FL), all rights reserved.

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Author: kimh