Property Tax Exemption Information

Eligibility Criteria

STATE OF FLORIDA ELIGIBILITY CRITERIA TO QUALIFY FOR PROPERTY TAX EXEMPTION DR501S.R. 12/08

When to File?

New applications for Homestead, Widow/Widower or Disability Exemption must be made in person. These applications may be made in the Property Appraiser's Office or in your various local communities at a time and place designated by the Property Appraiser. Pre-filing applications for exemptions for the following tax roll year are accepted year round. Applications for exemptions for the current tax roll year must be filed between January 1 and March 1.

The schedule indicating the time and place for filing exemption applications is published each January in our local newspaper, or you may call the Property Appraiser's office in January and be advised of this schedule.

What is Homestead Exemption?

Every person who has the legal or equitable title to real estate as of January 1, and maintains it as their permanent residence or as the residence of another legally or naturally dependent upon the owner may be entitled to up to $50,000 homestead exemption. The first $25,000 applies to all property taxes, including school district taxes. The additional exemption up to $25,000, applies to the assessed value between $50,000 and $75,000 and only to non-school taxes. In addition, assessed value increases on your homestead property will not exceed the lower of 3% per year, or average CPI, exclusive of any additions or renovations to the homestead. First time applicants should have available evidence of ownership i.e., deed, contract, etc. If title is held by the husband alone, a wife may file for him, with his consent, and vice versa. If filing for the first time, be prepared to answer these and other questions:

  1. In whose name or names was the title to the dwelling recorded as of January 1?
  2. What is the street address of the property?
  3. Are you a legal resident of the State of Florida? (A Certificate of Domicile or Voter's Registration will be proof if dated prior to January 1.)
  4. Do you have a Florida license plate on your car and a Florida driver's license?
  5. Were you living in the dwelling which is being claimed for homestead exemption on January 1?

Pre-Filing

Applications are accepted year round. As soon as you purchase the property, you may file an application for the exemption the following year.

DISCLOSING PROPERTY TAX IMPACT ON SALE OF HOMESTEAD PROPERTY

In 1995 Florida implemented Amendment 10 to the state constitution. Known as the "Save Our Homes" amendment, this requires all property qualifying for homestead exemption to have assessed value increases limited to the lower of the Consumer Price Index (CPI) or 3%. This limitation applies only to the homestead property itself. Any non-homestead property is subject to a different limitation (see below)

Property receiving the homestead exemption is assessed at full market value the first year in which it receives this exemption. This year becomes the base year for capping future value increases. In the following years it has the exemption, the property is reassessed annually and any change from the prior years’ value cannot exceed the lower of CPI or 3%.

Any new improvements or additions to homestead property (excluding normal maintenance) are added to the property assessment after the limitation has been applied to the homestead property. The sale of a property with homestead exemption in force will trigger the removal of all limited value for the following tax roll. This brings the property assessment to full market value.

In those neighborhoods where dramatic increases have taken place in market value, such as water and golf front properties, and homestead exemption has been in effect for many years, this limited value can be quite substantial. The impact on a new property owner can be dramatic when this value limitation is removed.

As an example, consider the following, where we'll assume that the owner purchased a home in 2014 that had a homestead exemption in force since 2008 in a neighborhood with a rising market. Of course, the year 2015 shows the cumulative effect of the prior six years of limited assessed value increases. The new owner qualifies for homestead exemption for 2015:

YEAR20142015
Market Value$175,000$165,000
Assessed Value$116,840$165,000
Cap %3.00%N/A
Amendment 10 Cap-$58,160$0
Homestead Exemption-$50,000-$50,000
Taxable Value$66,840$115,000
Hypothetical Tax$886.87$1,525.90

As this example illustrates, the transfer of ownership can have a dramatic effect on the ad valorem property taxes, even when homestead exemption is applied due to the expiration of the limitation enjoyed by the previous owner. Many homes may not have such a substantial increase due to the amount of capped value, but this example serves to highlight the impact home buyers may experience. Buyers should be aware that this is a part of the cost involved in purchasing a previously homestead exempt property in Florida.

Homestead Portability

Beginning in 2007 if you received the homestead exemption on a home that you sold or otherwise abandoned and have purchased a new home by January 1 of the next year, you are eligible to take some or all of the benefit of "Save our Homes" to your new home. In order to receive this benefit, you must apply by March 1, to your property appraiser for your new homestead exemption and for the transfer of the "Save Our Homes" benefit. This will remove all homestead benefits from the prior homestead property.

Loss of Homestead

The rental of an entire dwelling for two consecutive years, which was previously claimed to be a homestead for tax purposes shall constitute an abandonment of said dwelling as a homestead.

How do you Qualify for Homestead Exemption?

  • You must be a permanent resident of Florida as of January 1st.
  • You must have legal or equitable title to the property as of January 1st, reside thereon, and in good faith make it your permanent home.
  • You must make application in person with the County Property Appraiser between January 1 and March 1.

Property Entitled to Exemption

To be entitled to wholly or partial-wholly exempt status from ad valorem taxation, property must be used exclusively or predominantly for charitable, religious, educational, governmental, literary or scientific purposes. All property used exclusively for exempt purposes shall be totally exempt from ad valorem taxation.

  • All property used predominantly for exempt purposes shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation to the extent of the ratio that such predominant use bears to the non-exempt use.
  • No application for exemption may be granted for religious, literary, scientific or charitable use of property until the application has been found by the Property Appraiser to be non-profit as defined in F.S. 196.196, or upon appeal by the Value Adjustment Board or the courts.
  • Educational institution means state, parochial, Church and private schools, colleges and universities conducting regular classes and courses of study required for eligibility to certification by, accreditation to, or membership in the State Department of Education of Florida, Southern Association of Colleges and Secondary Schools or the Florida Council of Independent Schools.

Widow's and Widower's Exemption: $500.00

To file for Widow's/Widower's Exemption you must be a widow/widower prior to January 1st of the tax year and bring proof of your spouse's death. If the widow/widower remarries they are not qualified. Divorced persons do not qualify for widow's/widower's exemption.

Disability Exemption: $500.00

Every Florida resident who is totally and permanently disabled qualifies for this exemption. If filing for the first time, please present at least one of the following as proof of your disability: A certificate from a licensed Florida physician, or a certificate from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs. Physician's certificate forms are available from the Property Appraiser's office.

$5000 Disabled Veteran Exemption

Any ex-service member who is a permanent resident of Florida and is disabled at least 10% in war or by service-connected misfortune is entitled to a $5000 exemption. If filing for the first time, please present a certificate from the United States Government. May apply to any property owned by an eligible person including non-homestead.

Disabled Veterans Homestead Property Tax Discount

Any veteran age 65 and older may qualify for a homestead property tax discount if the veteran has an honorable discharge from military service, is partially disabled with a permanent service connected disability that is combat-related, and was a Florida resident at the time of entering military service. The discount is equal to the percentage of the veteran's permanent service connected disability as determined by the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.

Service-connected total and permanent disability exemption

Any honorably discharged veteran with a service-connected total and permanent disability, surviving spouses of qualifying veterans and spouses of Florida resident veterans who died from service-connected causes while on active duty as a member of the United States Armed forces are entitled to an exemption on real estate used and owned as a homestead less any portion thereof used for commercial purposes. Persons entitled to this exemption must have been a permanent resident of this state as of January 1 of the year of assessment.

Under certain circumstances the benefit of this exemption can carry over to the veteran's spouse in the event of the veteran's death.

If filing for the first time, please bring a certificate from the United States Government or United States Department of Veterans Affairs as your proof of a service-connected disability or death of your spouse while on active duty.

Total Exemption

Quadriplegics and honorably discharged veterans certified by the U.S. Government of service connected total and permanent disability, are eligible for total exemption.

Paraplegics, hemiplegics, other totally and permanently disabled persons reliant on a wheelchair for mobility, or who are legally blind, who also meet certain income requirements are eligible for total exemption. A sworn statement of gross income for the occupants of the homestead property must be filed annually with the Property Appraiser's office in order to qualify for this exemption.

Senior Exemption

From the Florida Department of Revenue internet web site:

Additional homestead exemption for persons 65 and olderIn accordance with s. 6(f), Art. VII of the State Constitution, the board of county commissioners of any county or the governing authority of any municipality may adopt an ordinance to allow an additional homestead exemption of up to $50,000 for any person who has the legal or equitable title to real estate and maintains thereon the permanent residence of the owner, who has attained age 65, and whose household income does not exceed the current adjusted income limitaion.

Beginning January 1, 2001, the $20,000 income limitation shall be adjusted annually, on January 1, by the percentage change in the average cost-of-living index in the period January 1 through December 31 of the immediate prior year compared with the same period for the year prior to that. The index is the average of the monthly consumer-price-index figures for the stated 12-month period, relative to the United States as a whole, issued by the United States Department of Labor.

The Highlands County Commission has adopted an ordinance to grant an additional senior exemption of up to $15,000 for eligible property owners. This exemption only covers the portion of your property tax for the Highlands County Board of County Commissioners. It does NOT apply to any of the tax levied by the school board, water management district, or municipalities.

For example, if a property owner were to qualify for this exemption in Highlands County, the potential savings would be: $15,000 times 7.000 mills equals $106.50.

In order to qualify, an annual statement of gross income must be filed with the Property Appraiser's office.

FILING PERIOD: JANUARY 1 – MARCH 1

WHO IS ELIGIBLE? Every person who has the legal or equitable title to real estate and maintains it as his permanent residence or as the residence of another legally or naturally dependent upon the owner as of January 1 AND over 65 years of age as of January 1 AND has an adjusted gross income less than the current limitaion (household income) for the calendar year may be entitled to receive up to an additional $15,000 senior exemption from county ad valorem taxes. This income threshold is adjusted annually. This exemption is only applied to the county commission portion of your taxes, and will not apply to school board, city, water management, or any other taxes.

WHAT TO BRING WHEN APPLYING? Please bring with you the following:

  • Copy of current IRS tax return for all occupants of household.
  • If you don't file a return, documentation of income received during previous year for all occupants of property. Social security statement(s) indicating prior year income.
  • The household gross income statement must be filed annually in order to continue qualification for this exemption.

WHERE TO FILE:

  • Highlands County Government Center, first floor, 560 S. Commerce Ave., Sebring during entire filing period;
  • Avon Park and Lake Placid – will be announced in newspaper. Telephone: 402-6659

Non Homestead Value limitation

Non Homestead Value Limitation applies to all property, is automatic and does not require any filings. Increases in the assessed value of all non-homestead properties cannot exceed 10% of the prior year. Any new improvements or additions (excluding normal maintenance) are added to the property assessment after the limitation has been applied. As with homestead properties a change of ownership triggers the removal of all restriction from assessed value increases that have accrued during prior ownership for the following tax roll and the assessed value reverts to full market value. Also the base year for future restrictions begins from the time of the most recent sale.