As a Florida homeowner, you are probably well aware that your house and land are subject to local property taxes. For many residents of the Sunshine State, property taxes represent a significant part of their financial burden. Of course, you want to ensure that you are not overpaying. So how might you lower your property tax bill?
There are two primary methods of reducing your tax burden. The first method is available to all homeowners. The second depends on whether you meet qualifications that are articulated within Florida's tax laws. If you meet any of those qualifications, you may seek tax relief using both methods.
Method #1: Appeal the Taxable Value of Your Home
Florida authorities compute your property tax by multiplying your home's taxable value by the applicable tax rate. For example, imagine that the tax appraiser has placed a taxable value of $200,000 on the Petersons' home. If the tax rate is 1%, the Petersons will owe $2,000 in property tax.
If you can reduce the taxable value of your home, your property tax bill will obviously be lower. Using the example above, if the Petersons appeal the $200,000 taxable value of their home, claiming that it's not worth as much as the state believes, they might convince the state to reduce the taxable value. If the appeals board agrees, and reduces that value to $150,000, the Petersons will owe only $1,500 in property taxes.
If you believe that the tax appraiser has misjudged the value of your home, or if the taxable value is higher than that of similar homes in your area, you might want to pursue an appeal. The Florida Department of Revenue offers guidance to homeowners seeking to file such an appeal.
Method #2: Claim All Tax Breaks to Which You're Entitled
Florida allows for reduced property taxes if the homeowner meets certain requirements. The chief programs in Florida are summarized here.
- Primary home (homestead): If you own a house in Florida as your permanent residence, you may be entitled to a property tax exemption, known as a "homestead exemption," of up to $50,000. 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. The precise amount of the exemption depends on the assessed value of the home. (See Florida Statutes § 196.031.)
- Construction for older family member: If you construct living quarters in your home for a parent or grandparent who is at least 62 years old, and that person actually continues living there, you can apply (annually) to either have the added value of your home be made exempt from property tax, or to have 20% knocked off the total, whichever is less. (See Florida Statutes § 197.703.)
- Exemption for longtime limited-income seniors: If you are 65 years old or older, and have had a permanent Florida residence for at least 25 years, you might be entitled to a 100% exemption. Your eligibility for this exemption depends on the county or city where you live, and your income must be below a specified limit. This exemption applies only if your home is worth less than $250,000. (See Florida Statutes § 196.075.)
- Deployed service member: If you were deployed in U.S. military service during the tax year, you may qualify for an additional homestead exemption. The exact amount depends upon how many days you were deployed. (See Florida Statutes §196.173.)
- Surviving spouse of person killed in military service: There's a homestead exemption if you are the surviving spouse of a military person who died from service-connected causes. (See the "Fallen Heroes" Act, Florida Statutes § 196.081.)
- Surviving spouse of first responder. There's also an exemption if you were married to a first responder who was killed in the line of duty. (See Florida Statutes § 196.081.)
- Disabled veteran. In addition to the usual homestead exemptions, you may qualify for a tax discount if you're 65 years old or older, and have a disability that's wholly or partly due to combat. (See Florida Statutes § 196.082.)
- Other disabled people. If you're blind, need a wheelchair for mobility, or are totally and permanently disabled, you might qualify for an exemption from Florida property taxes, if your household income is below a certain level. (See Florida Statutes § 196.101.)
Contact your local tax appraiser for complete details on these and other Florida exemptions, including any required forms you need to complete and the deadline for filing. For contact information for the tax appraiser's office in your county, see the website of the Florida Department of Revenue.
Property taxes are not always straightforward, as you can probably appreciate from this short article. Depending on the complexity of your situation, you might want to seek help from a property lawyer. To find an experienced real estate lawyer in Florida, check out Nolo's Lawyer Directory.