It's the first week of January in Alachua County. Spent fireworks litter the streets and you're dressed for summer. You've rung in the new year and now, if you bought a home last year, it's time to apply for the homestead exemption, a tax break for permanent Florida residents that could reduce your property tax liability by up to $50,000. Read on to determine if you qualify for the popular exemption and how to apply.

What is the Florida Homestead Exemption?

The Florida Save Our Homes Act provides that if you've established your Florida home as your permanent residency by January 1 of this year, $50,000 of your assessed property value is exempt from taxation. If property taxes are imposed by your school district, the exemption is $25,000. (Another important stipulation of the Save Our Homes Act caps increases to your property's assessed value at 3% per year.) The typical homestead exemption saves homeowners anywhere from $500 - $1,000 in property taxes.

How Do I Qualify?

In order to qualify for the homestead exemption you must be a bona fide Florida resident. For property tax purposes that means your home deed was recorded before January 1 of this year. It also means you've signaled your intent to establish your primary residence in the state, such as obtaining a Florida driver's license, registering your vehicles in Florida, opening local bank accounts, and registering to vote.

Though not necessary, to really seal the deal you'll have filed a Declaration of Domicile with the county clerk's office before January 1 of this year. It also helps to cut ties with your old state. If the state you're leaving collects state income tax or an estate tax, confirm your change of residence by taking specific steps to terminate your “resident status" there. And it probably goes without saying, but if you have a homestead exemption in another state, your Florida homestead exemption application will be denied.

How Do I Apply?

OK, I'm a bona fide Florida resident. How do I apply for the homestead exemption? To ensure you're filing correctly, it's best to go in person to your local Property Appraiser's office. In Alachua County you'll want to head over to 515 North Main Street in Gainesville. Make sure to bring the following documents for all owners, including spouses:

  • Florida automobile registration and driver's license
  • If registered to vote, your Alachua County voter ID card
  • Social security numbers (required even if spouses are separated or if only one is on the deed)

The deadline to file is March 1.

Note: If you purchased your property after January 1 and your Notice of Proposed Property Tax -- aka Truth in Millage or TRIM -- indicates a homestead exemption, this exemption was granted to the prior owner and will no longer apply in the new year. Except when passing on a home to descendents, homestead exemptions are not transferable from one owner to another. To qualify for the exemption for the current year's tax year, you'll have to file a new application at the Property Appraiser's offices by the March 1st deadline.

Not sure if you qualify or still have questions? For further information on the homestead or other exemptions, feel free to contact Kristen Rabell of Rabell Realty Group at (352) 213-6760, or the Alachua County Property Appraiser's office at (352) 374-5230. 

Porting Your Homestead Exemption

A homeowner asks, "How do I go about cancelling a homestead exemption if I have moved into a residence that already has a homestead exemption?"

This is a great question! You actually do not want to cancel your homestead exemption, but rather port, or partially transfer it to your new Florida homestead. The deadline is still March 1st. By porting your homestead exemption, you will be able to take whatever home savings you have in your current homestead and apply them to your new homestead. Remember, property taxes are paid in arrears, meaning they are paid at the end of the year and that is why you get your bill in November.

Home for sale in Turkey Creek, a Gainesville, FL golf community

How to Transfer Your Florida Homestead Exemption (the Right Way) When You Move

You can port, or transfer, your Florida Homestead Exemption when you sell your home and buy a new one, but there's a right way and a wrong way to go about it. Learn more

For our neighbors in Bradford, Columbia, Levy, and Marion counties, here are the addresses and phone numbers of property appraiser's offices:

Bradford County
945 North Temple Ave
Starke, FL
(904) 966-6216 

Columbia County
139 NE Hernando Ave, Suite 238
Lake City, FL
(386) 758-1083

Levy County
355 South Court St
Bronson, FL
(352) 486-5222 

Marion County
501 SE 25th Ave
Ocala, FL
(352) 368-8300