Florida Homestead Tax Exemption Primer and Reminder

As we move towards the close of 2011 and the start of 2012, it is always important to revisit the Florida Homestead Tax Exemption to make sure its benefit is not missed. As in 2011, the Florida Homestead Tax Exemption for 2012 will provide that property owners who make Florida their permanent residency prior to January 1, 2012, will be eligible for the homestead tax exemption of up to $50,000.00.

The primary homestead exemption takes$25,000.00 off the taxable value of your home, and it applies to all property taxes. A second $25,000.00 exemption was added in 2008, but does not apply to school taxes. Additional exemptions of $500.00 each are also available to widows, widowers, the disabled and the blind. Individuals with total and permanent disabilities who own homesteaded property are exempt from paying property taxes in Florida.

In addition to the exemptions, Florida Law also provides the “Save Our Homes” benefit, which provides that the annual increase of the assessed value of homesteaded property is capped from year to year at the lesser of 3% or the change in the consumer price index for the previous year. While property values may not be what they once were, the exemptions and cap provide significant savings to property owners, and as such still remain a benefit that property owners should seek to acquire and maintain.

1. Own and occupy your Florida property prior to January 1, 2012.
2. Apply for the exemption with proof of ownership and residency at the Property Appraiser’s Office no later than March 1, 2012.

Once a property owner establishes the homestead exemption, it automatically renews from year to year until the property is sold or no longer qualifies. As such, when an existing Florida homeowner establishes a new homestead in the State, they should consider the benefits of Florida’s Portability Laws (see Matthew Plummer’s article regarding Florida’s Portability Laws at http://www.blalockwalters.com/archives/2008/08/05/portability-the-key-component-of-amendment-1/.

While the above represents the current Florida Law on homestead property exemptions, one should also be aware of the current laws effecting non-homestead property and the future of those laws. In 2008, Florida voters amended the Constitution to prohibit the assessment of certain non-homestead property from increasing by more than 10% per year. While the current real estate downturn has not brought this change to the forefront yet, individuals should be aware of this cap and also of the possibility that the cap may become 5% in the near future.

While the foregoing provides a primer of the Florida Homestead Exemptions, the complexities should not be understated, and with changes on the horizon, Blalock Walters will continue to stay abreast of the Law so that we may be able to assist you in maximizing your property tax savings. Please feel free to contact Blalock Walters should you have any questions regarding this article or any other real estate issues.