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The Law providing an additional Homestead Exemption for Senior Citizens

The 1999 Legislature enacted Chapter 99-341, Laws of Florida, effective July 1, 1999 (see Committee Substitute for Committee Substitute for House Bill 291). This new legislation creates section 196.075, Florida Statutes, in accordance with express authority provided in a recent revision of the State Constitution approved by electors of Florida at the November 3, 1998, general election, which took effect January 1, 1999 (see Section Oft Article VII, of the Florida Constitution, and 1998 House Joint Resolution 3151).

The law allows both counties and municipalities, through adoption of an ordinance, to each grant an additional homestead tax exemption of up to $25,000 to resident homeowners who have legal or equitable title to the real estate, who are at least 65 years of age on January 1 of the year for which the application for exemption is made and whose annual household adjusted gross income for the prior year does not exceed $20,000. The law defines the terms "household" and "household income" and provides for a cost of-living increase for the income limitation beginning January 1, 2001. View section 196.075, Florida Statutes.

This new legislation provides that the county or municipal ordinance must be adopted by December 1 pursuant to the procedures contained in section 125.66(2), Florida Statutes, for adoption of a non-emergency ordinance, The exemption can apply only to taxes levied by the unit of government granting the exemption; and, unless otherwise specified, such exemption will apply to all tax levies of the county or municipality granting the exemption, including dependent special districts and municipal service taxing units.

The amount of the exemption, which cannot exceed $25,000, must also be specified in the ordinance. If the unit of government granting the exemption specifies a different amount for dependent special districts or municipal service taxing units, the exemption amount must be a uniform amount in all dependent special districts or municipal service taxing districts within the county or municipality. The ordinance must also require a taxpayer claiming the exemption to annually submit a sworn statement of household income, on a form prescribed by the Department of Revenue, to the property appraiser not later than March 1.

Persons entitled to the regular homestead exemption may apply for the additional homestead exemption provided by the new law. "The new law requires the applicant taxpayer to submit to the property appraiser, by March 1, a sworn statement of adjusted gross income of the household for the prior year.

Persons applying should be encouraged to file the necessary supporting income documentation, if available, along with the sworn statement of adjusted household income that is required to be filed with the properly appraiser no later than March 1. If this required sworn statement is filed timely, the law allows applicants three additional months, until June 1, to provide the required supporting income documentation to the property appraiser if more time is needed.

Persons receiving the additional homestead exemption are subject to the provisions of sections 196.131 and 196.161, Florida Statutes, pertaining to wrongful receipt of a homestead exemption. If title to the property is, held jointly with right of survivorship, the person residing on the property and otherwise qualifying may receive the entire amount of the additional homestead exemption.

The board of county commissioners or municipal governing authority must notify the property appraiser of the adoption of an ordinance no later than December 1 of the year prior to the year the exemption takes place. Therefore, this exemption will be available for the first time in tax year 2000. If the ordinance is later repealed the board of county commissioners or municipal governing authority must notify the property appraiser of the adoption of an ordinance no later than December I of the year prior to the year the exemption expires.

In those counties and municipalities where this additional exemption is granted by local ordinance, the property appraiser will be responsible for receiving applications for the new exemption, evaluating the applications and their supporting documentation, informing citizens it their application was accepted or rejected, and applying the exemption to the tax roll. The property appraiser will have to ascertain which cities, if any, have adopted an exemption ordinance, and for how much, as well as the amount of any county exemption ordinance in existence; and, monitor the repeal of any exemption ordinances.

 
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