Homestead And Other Exemption Information
FLORIDA HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION
OFFICIAL TIMELY FILING PERIOD JANUARY 1 – MARCH 1
LATE FILED APPLICATIONS ACCEPTED UP TO 25 DAYS AFTER THE MAILING OF THE TRUTH IN MILLAGE NOTICE (TRIM Notice) – If you believe you may qualify – apply immediately.
Florida law requires that application be made by March 1st (late filed accepted and processed in accordance with current Florida law) to be eligible for up to a $50,000 Homestead Exemption. Only new applicants or those who had a change of residence need apply. Automatic renewals are mailed in January each year.
What Is A Homestead Exemption?
Homestead Exemption is a constitutional benefit of up to a $50,000 exemption removed from the assessed value of your property. It is granted to those applicants who possess title to real property and are bona fide Florida residents living in the dwelling and making it their permanent home on January 1. Documentation that proves you were a resident at the homestead property is required.
Rental of the Homestead Property Property owners who receive the homestead exemption on their residence need to be aware that personally renting their property or renting through home-sharing or collaborative consumption companies may constitute abandonment and, therefore, loss of the homestead tax exemption. Renting typically means exclusive use by a tenant on a temporary, seasonal or annual basis. If you plan to rent, please contact the appropriate legal advisers to be sure that you do not jeopardize your homestead exemption. Relinquishing your homestead exemption will increase your property taxes.
Value Limitations (caps) Properties granted homestead exemption automatically receive the “Save Our Homes” benefit. This is a constitutional benefit approved by the Florida voters in 1992. It places a limitation of 3% on annual assessment increase on homestead properties beginning with the 1995 tax year. For properties granted homestead exemption in the prior years, that assessed value will be the base value for the implementation of “Save Our Homes”. Thereafter, the assessed value will not increase more than 3% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less. Exceptions to that limitation include new additions or construction that escaped taxation in the past. When a homestead property sells, the assessed value returns to fair market value in the year following the sale. That value assessment then becomes the new owner/homestead applicant’s base value for “Save Our Homes” purposes.
INFORMATION/DOCUMENTATION IS REQUIRED IN ORDER TO FILE FOR ANY EXEMPTION – PERMANENT FLORIDA RESIDENCY, OWNERSHIP AND OCCUPANCY** OF THE PROPERTY AS YOUR PRIMARY HOMESTEAD PROPERTY IS REQUIRED AS OF JANUARY 1
You may file for your homestead exemption by mail, in person or on-line at www.leepa.org. If filing online, please read on-line filing instructions carefully to determine eligibility. If you are filing by mail, you may download an application form, complete same, attach required documentation and mail the form to our office. If you are not a registered voter and cannot provide a photocopy of your recorded Declaration of Domicile, you must visit the Appraiser’s office to complete this form for recording. Contact info: E-mail: Exemptions@leepa.org, Phone: (888) 721-0510, physical location: Constitutional Complex, 2480 Thompson St, 4th floor, Fort Myers Florida 33901 between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday.
To be eligible to receive the homestead exemption you must own the property (have legal title/interest) and permanently reside on/occupy the property. You must be able to document that you resided at your homestead property as of January 1 by providing proof of issuance of a Florida Driver’s license and Lee County Voter registration (both showing the homestead address as the residence address of record). Non-voters must complete a Declaration of Domicile (available in our office). Additional information is required and described below. Please review the following information carefully.
Applicants must hold a valid Florida Driver’s License. If you apply in person, provide the original license at the time you make application. If filing by mail provide a photocopy in lieu of the original. You must provide a photocopy of the front and back of the license. Refer to F.S. 322.19 for requirements for name/address changes associated with your driver’s license or Florida I.D. card. A Florida I.D. Card can be used ONLY if you do not hold a driver’s license in any other jurisdiction. (A “Valid in Florida ONLY” license is not acceptable).
Florida vehicle license plate (tag) number is required and must be registered in the name of each applicant. If you own multiple vehicles, at least one vehicle must be registered in Florida. Leased vehicles must be registered in Florida. Company owned vehicles do not require Florida registration (license tags).
If you ARE a U.S. Citizen – provide your Lee County Florida Voter’s Registration Card or – if you do not vote – you will be required to complete and record a Declaration of Domicile. Your voter ID address must be that of your new homestead address. If you have not already recorded a domicile, you may obtain the domicile form at the Appraiser’s Office. Non-voters are unable to file on-line.
Proof of U.S. Citizenship may be required. IF YOU ARE NOT A U.S. CITIZEN – you must possess a valid Permanent Resident Alien Card or proof that your card has been approved. Proof of asylum is also accepted. A Declaration of Domicile must be recorded in Florida. Temporary visas and work visas do not qualify. To apply by mail, you must submit a legible copy of the front and back of your permanent resident card and a copy of the recorded declaration of domicile. See Item #3 (above) for information on /recording the Declaration of Domicile. (Must be Issued as of 1/1)
Social Security Number is required for all applicants and the spouse of all applicants. If married, you must provide your spouse’s Social Security number even though the spouse is not an owner of the property and is not applying for exemption.
Date of birth for applicant(s).
Proof of ownership – copy of Lee County tax bill or recorded Deed to prove ownership of the property on which you are making exemption application. Ownership in Trust requires copy of Trust/Certificate of Trust/proof of applicant qualifications as stated in Trust. Trustees must sign the application as Trustee, i.e. John Doe, Trustee of John Doe Trust.
Proof that you (or your spouse) do not receive a residency based exemption or tax credit in another jurisdiction –You cannot claim a residency based homestead exemption, tax credit or rollback in any other state or county while receiving the homestead exemption in Lee County. In addition, if you are married, your spouse cannot receive exemption, tax credit or rollback in any other jurisdiction unless you have documentary evidence to prove a separation of the family unit. Section 6 (b) Article VII, FL Constitution states that not more than one exemption shall be allowed any individual or family unit. To document removal of any other exemptions, a statement from the jurisdiction indicating either there are no residency based benefits being applied, or if there were residency based tax credits or exemptions being applied they have been removed is required. You may use this document: Out of State Exemption Removal Form to comply with this requirement. You will be asked to sign an affidavit stating that you have been informed of the policy regarding multiple exemptions and that you are responsible for removing any other exemption in order to qualify in Lee County. Additional information may be required.
Upon qualifying for Florida Homestead exemption, any state tax returns filed in your name must be filed as a non-resident or part–time resident of that state in order to continue to qualify as a Florida resident. Contact your CPA or tax preparer for information on filing out of state tax returns once you become a Florida resident. Proof of filing a state return as a part –time or non-resident may be required when updating your exemption qualifications.
Who Is Eligible to File for an Exemption?
Those individuals whose names appear on the deed and who reside on the property as of Jan. 1 and who are bona fide Florida residents as of January 1 are eligible to file. Seasonal or temporary rental of the homestead may be considered abandonment of the homestead exemption – contact the PA Office for information.
* Regardless of the type of tenancy, it is recommended that all persons whose names appear on the deed and reside on the property apply for the exemption to safeguard your benefits from ownership changes in the future due to death, divorce or other changes. Properties that are used as rental property (seasonal or annual) do not qualify as homestead property. Please contact the appraiser for more information on rentals.
Visit our website or contact our office for additional exemption information; you may be entitled to exemptions other than those listed below:
SENIOR EXEMPTION: All residents of Lee County, 65 years of age or older as of Jan 1, whose annual adjusted gross household income does not exceed mandated income limitation may qualify. Income limits are adjusted annually (Senior Instructions and download forms). Information on the current income limit for this exemption and more information on the CPI is available from the Department of Revenue.
$500 WIDOW/WIDOWER’S EXEMPTION – To file for Widow or Widower’s Exemption you must be a widow or widower prior to JANUARY 1st of the tax year and provide proof of your spouse’s death. Divorced persons do not qualify for this exemption.
$500 DISABILITY EXEMPTION – Veteran / Non Veteran – Florida residents who provide proof of total and permanent disability or proof of legal blindness may qualify. Certification from a Florida physician or a statement from the Division of Blind Services is required. Income verification is not required. (Florida Physician’s Certification of Disability forms are available in our office or can be downloaded from our website).
SURVIVING SPOUSE OF FIRST RESPONDER WHO DIED IN THE LINE OF DUTY EXEMPTION – Any real estate that is owned and used as a homestead by the surviving spouse of a first responder who died in the line of duty while employed by the state or any political subdivision of the state, including authorities and special districts, and for whom a letter from the state or appropriate political subdivision of the state, or other authority or special district, has been issued which legally recognizes and certifies that the first responder died in the line of duty while employed as a first responder is exempt from taxation if the first responder and his or her surviving spouse were permanent residents of this state on January 1 of the year in which the first responder died.
VETERAN $5,000 DISABILITY EXEMPTION – An honorably discharged ex-service member designated as 10 % through 99% disabled due to war-time or by service connected misfortune may qualify. The surviving spouse of the veteran may also qualify to receive this exemption. (Provide documentation from VA indicating percentage of service connected disability).
VETERAN – TOTAL AND PERMANENT DISABILITY EXEMPTION – An honorably discharged veteran with total and permanent service-connected disability may qualify for total exemption of ad-valorem taxes. (Provide documentation from VA stating service-connected total and permanent disability).
VETERAN EXEMPTIONS – ADDITIONAL exemptions available to qualifying veterans over age 65 and to qualifying deployed military personnel – contact our office for more information.
TOTAL EXEMPTION OF HOMESTEAD PROPERTY FROM AD VALOREM TAXATION – Section 196.101, F.S. provides that real estate owned by any quadriplegic is exempt from taxation – there is no income limitation for quadriplegics. Paraplegic, hemiplegic, or other totally and permanently disabled persons, who must use a wheel chair for mobility, or are legally blind and produce certification of that fact shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation – Income limitation applies – proof of gross income is required and or other official certification of disability is required. (Florida Physician’s Certification of Disability forms are available in our office or can be downloaded from our website).
It is the responsibility of every taxpayer to annually verify their exemption / SOH portability status and notify the Appraiser of any corrections. The Notice of Proposed Taxes (TRIM Notice) mailed each year in mid-August documents your exemption and SOH status. Review your exemption and/or portability status on the Notice of Proposed taxes. If your exempt status is not documented on the Notice, contact our office immediately. Failure to provide all qualifying documentation no later than the deadline stated on the TRIM Notice will result in the loss of your exemption / SOH benefit for the current tax year. Exemptions are not granted retroactively and are not automatically transferred to your new homestead. You must apply for exemption and portability of the SOH benefit (if applicable) any time you purchase and relocate to a new residence. Please govern yourself accordingly. ** The “Date of Occupancy” is required and is used to determine eligibility. Date of occupancy isn’t necessarily determined by closing date on your new property or sale date of your prior residence or the date you make application for exemption. Date of occupancy is the date you reside on the property and consider the property to be your permanent and primary residence; issuance of your driver’s license and voter registration at the homestead address also prove your physical presence as of a specific date and are used in determining your eligibility.
Where (How) to File for Homestead?
To better serve the residents of Lee County, we are now accepting Homestead Exemption applications by mail. The letter of instruction and application form may be obtained by visiting our website at: www.leepa.org. If you prefer to apply in person, you may do so at our Main Office located at 2480 Thompson Street, 4th floor, Fort Myers, Florida between the hours of 8:30 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Monday through Friday. You may submit your application by mail. Be sure to include all required documentation and information at the time you mail your application. Incomplete applications cannot be processed and will be returned to you for completion. Mail your application to Lee County Property Appraiser, P O Box 1546, Fort Myers, Florida 33902. Timely filed applications must be postmarked no later than midnight, March 1, of the year in which you qualify for exemption. You may late file applications which will be processed in accordance with Florida Statutes. If you believe you may qualify, please file your application immediately.
To apply in person you must apply at 2480 Thompson Street, 4th Floor, Fort Myers, Florida 33901. Please be sure that you have all the required documentation/information with you when you visit our office to apply. Hours of operation are 8:30 A.M to 5:00 P.M, Monday through Friday. The Office of the Property Appraiser is closed in observance of scheduled holidays as per the Board of Lee County Board of County Commissioners. Please refer to our “List of Observed Holidays” on the home page of our website at www.leepa.org.
You may visit your public library to download an application or to file on-line
The Lee County Tax Collector’s Office does not provide exemption application forms and cannot assist you in filing an exemption.
Top Four Reasons That May Cause You to Lose Your Homestead Exemption
Renting your property for more than 30 days per calendar year, for 2 consecutive years or renting it as of Jan 1st of any tax year.
Maintain or obtain a driver’s license in any other state. A driver’s license is residency based.
Are registered to vote elsewhere. Lee County must be the only county that you are registered to vote in.
Maintain or obtain an out of state residency based tax exemption, reduction, benefit, credit, etc (e.g. STAR in NY, a veteran’s exemption, a senior’s exemption, etc). This requirement applies to jointly held property by a married couple even if only one applies for a homestead exemption here and the other applies for an out-of-state tax credit. If you are in this category presently, you must cancel your out-of-state tax benefit(s) effective January 1st of the year in which you have applied for your homestead exemption. If either spouse owns other Florida property, even individually, only one property can have a residency based exemption.
MOBILE HOME EXEMPTION
If you hold title to a mobile home and the land on which it is situated and the mobile home is permanently affixed to the land, you can make application to the Property Appraiser to have the property appraised as real property. This application requires you to purchase an “RP” sticker from the Tax Collector’s Office. You must make application for the sticker between January 1st and March 1st. Homestead exemption may be allowed if the mobile home meets the above qualifications and the property owner meets the qualifications for the exemption.
When no one individual owns the land, as is the case with some mobile home parks, the park is taxed for the land as a whole (real property) and the improvements to the mobile home are taxed as Tangible Personal Property. However, you still must buy a yearly “MH” tag for the mobile home itself from the Tax Collector’s Office.
An agricultural classification is the designation of land by the Property Appraiser, pursuant to F.S. 193.461, in which the assessment is based on agricultural use value.
To qualify for Agricultural classification, a return must be filed with the Property Appraiser between January 1 and March 1 of the tax year. Only the land that is used for a bona fide agricultural purpose shall be classified agricultural. “Bona Fide Agricultural Purposes” means good faith commercial agricultural use of the land.
The Property Appraiser, prior to classifying such lands, may require the taxpayer or the taxpayer’s representative to furnish such information as may reasonably be required to establish such lands are actually used for a bona fide agricultural purpose.
The Property Appraiser may deny agricultural classification to the following lands:
Lands that are not being used for or diverted from agricultural use
Land that has been zoned non-agricultural at the request of the owner
Land on which a sub-division plat is recorded
Land which is purchased for a price three or more times the agricultural appraisal placed on the land