Homeowners 65 or older may qualify for tax exemption
Published: Tuesday, January 13, 2004 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Monday, January 12, 2004 at 11:14 p.m.
Eligible homeowners 65 and older can lower their 2004 property-tax bills by applying for an additional homestead exemption up to $25,000 that is available in 46 Florida counties and 121 cities.
An existing standard homestead exemption of $25,000 for all homeowners is renewed automatically after the first application, but this additional exemption must be applied for every year by March 1.
While unincorporated Alachua County and the cities of Gainesville and Alachua offer the additional exemption, it is being phased in over a five-year period in increments of $5,000, reaching $25,000 in the year 2005, according to information on the Alachua County Property Appraiser's Web site.
The additional exemption applies only to the millage rate and municipal services tax of the city of Gainesville, city of Alachua and unincorporated areas of the county, said Ed Crapo, county property appraiser.
"Last year about 900 people filed for the additional exemption," Crapo said, adding that his office already has gotten quite a few inquiries about this and has gotten information out to people as the requests come in.
The additional exemption is based on total household income - a figure that has increased every year since a state constitutional amendment in 1998 first allowed cities and counties to offer this option. In 2003, the figure was $21,599 or less. The 2004 household income limit is to be announced later this month.
Statewide, only about four in 10 eligible senior households take advantage of the option, said Department of Revenue spokesman Dave Bruns. In 2003, 148,000 households received the exemptions, he said.
"Of the tax benefits that Florida law offers, this is the one least utilized," Bruns said. "We're a little bit at a loss to explain this because our informal indications are that people who are perfectly eligible for this benefit and could be receiving it have chosen for some reason not to apply for it."
Some people might fear that having a lot of assets disqualifies them, but Bruns said that is not the case.
"They should go by the adjusted gross income number that they are reporting on their Internal Revenue Service Form 1040 - the amount that is subject to federal tax," Bruns said.
Doris Chandler can be reached at (352) 374-5094.
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