Thursday, December 2, 2021 / by Mike Shoaff
January 1st is right around the corner and if you have not filed for Homestead Exemption now is the time to start the precess. The deadline for filing for the Homestead Exemption is on March 1st of the tax year. For homeowners who are full-time Florida residents, their property offers several ways to save money. “The homestead exemption keeps taxes down year after year of living within the residence,” says Annabel Ybaceta, director of exemptions with the Collier County Property Appraiser’s office.
Many Florida homeowners are familiar with the homestead exemption, which exempts part of a home’s value from taxation. But there are additional exemptions for homeowners who are veterans, seniors, widowed or disabled. According to Ms. Ybaceta, there are approximately 237,000 residential properties in Collier County and about 98,000 of them are homesteaded, which is 41%. That percentage might seem low, but many properties are owned by seasonal residents who are not Florida residents and therefore can’t claim the homestead exemption.
Florida instituted a $5,000 homestead exemption in 1934. The exemption increased to $25,000 in 1980. Since 2008, the updated statute exempts the first $25,000 from all taxing authorities and the next $25,000 from all taxing authorities except school district taxes. Implemented in 1994, the Save Our Homes amendment limits increases in assessed value to 3% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is lower. Ms. Ybaceta says the CPI is almost always lower and is 1.4% this year. “Homestead saves about $500 (per household), but the capped increase in the assessed value is the better benefit,” she says. One of the biggest misconceptions about homestead, Ms. Ybaceta says, is that people think they must live in Florida for six months plus a day. “That’s not true,” she explains. “Florida has to be your primary residence on Jan. 1. You don’t have to physically be here six months and a day.” And you can still travel, she adds.
Owners cannot rent out the property and still claim homestead. They also can’t claim residency in Florida and another state. “Only one home is your primary residence,” she says.
“Some people think it’s taken care of for them at closing, but it isn’t,” Ms. Ybaceta says. “We don’t know when you purchase a property that you’re making it your primary residence until you make an application.” Another misconception is why neighbors might be paying different tax amounts on houses with the same value. Ms. Ybaceta gives the example of a homeowner who filed for a homestead exemption in 2010 and a neighbor who filed in 2020. The assessed value of the first homeowner’s property was capped at an increase of 3% or less since 2010, while the second homeowner’s taxes are based on current assessed value, which is likely higher.
If a brother and sister own a property but only one files for the homestead exemption, only that sibling receives the tax savings equal to their ownership percentage.
Ms. Ybaceta recommends that all owners of a property file for homestead exemption to help with these types of transitions.
People can also claim a homestead exemption for years, change their residency out of Florida for a while, and reapply for a homestead exemption if they once again make Florida their primary residence. However, the new exemption is based on the current assessed value. Ms. Ybaceta says many states offer exemptions but might call them another term, such as rollbacks. She says homeowners should assess which state offers them the greater tax savings.
“Some other states have equal savings or are income-based. They have to look at the pros and cons of how much they would save in Florida versus another state. Nothing can predict next year’s home values or millage rates.”
Visit the appraiser’s office website or one of its offices for details about these additional opportunities that can range from $500 to complete exemption:
¦ Low-income senior age 65 and older with an adjusted gross income (per household) of $31,100 or less
¦ Long-time senior homeowner in the residence for more than 25 years and with a home value less than $250,000
¦ Disabled veteran
¦ Deployed military
¦ Surviving spouse of military veteran or first responder killed in the line of duty
¦ Civilian disability
¦ Widow or widower
Where do I file for the Homestead Exemption?
In Collier County you can file for the Homestead Exemption at any of the following locations:
3950 Radio Rd., Naples, FL 34104
Orange Blossom Office
2335 Orange Blossom Dr., Naples, FL 34109
Golden Gate City Office
4715 Golden Gate Pkwy., Naples, FL 34116
Fort Myers, FL 33901