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What Is a Homestead Exemption and How Does It Work?

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A homestead exemption is when a state reduces the property taxes you have to pay on your home. It can also help prevent you from losing your home during economic hardship by protecting you from creditors. The exact rules and amounts vary wildly but you could save a decent amount of money on your annual tax bill.

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How does a homestead exemption work?

Most states offer exemptions that could help you reduce your property tax bill and receive protection from creditors. These protections are designed to help you stay in your home and avoid getting priced out of neighborhoods where property value is increasing.

What’s an example?

Homestead exemptions primarily work by reducing your home value in the eyes of the tax assessor. So if you qualify for a $50,000 exemption and your home is worth $200,000, then you will be taxed as if your home is worth only $150,000.

Who qualifies for a homestead exemption?

Each state — and even each county — can make its own rules about who qualifies for a homestead exemption and how much it is. In most cases, people with “permanent and total disability”, veterans, seniors (people 65 and older) and the surviving spouses of veterans can qualify if they have limited income.

How to apply for a homestead exemption?

Depending on your location, you may be able to apply online with your state treasury office or in the appraisal district in which you live, such as with a county tax assessor. If your government doesn’t accept online forms, you’ll need to print out and mail the paperwork by the filing deadline, which can vary but is commonly in March.

In the paperwork, you will likely need to prove that you qualify for the exemption with documentation such as images of your driver’s license to show proof of age, military discharge papers and annual tax return files.

CAUTION: If you’re having tax trouble, beware of companies that offer to negotiate with the IRS for you; many are fraudulent. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) advises that you work out a payment plan directly with the IRS (Installment Agreement Request, IRS Form 9465) or look into the IRS’ Offer in Compromise (OIC) program.

States with homestead tax exemptions

Click on your state to see what exemptions are available and get a link to more information. Note that seniors are defined as those 65 and older. If you’re curious how your state stacks up, here’s where homeowners pay the highest and lowest property taxes.

Other ways to lower your property tax bill

There are alternative ways to lower your personal property dues and, if you’re looking for budget room, here’s how to lower your mortgage payment.

Look for other exemptions. Besides homestead exemptions, you may qualify for further tax relief measures if you are a person with disabilities, eldery and/or a veteran.

Limit improvement and remodeling projects. If you construct an enclosed porch to your home, build a deck in the backyard or install a large tool shed, your home’s value will likely go up and with it, your property tax.

Talk with the assessor. Look at how much your neighbors’ homes are valued — if another home identical to yours is valued lower, call the assessor and ask if there could have been an error. You could also pay to have an independent appraiser give a second opinion.

File a tax appeal. If you notice that your tax bill itself has errors — such as the wrong square footage — file a tax appeal with your local government. A lawyer may be able to help you with this.

 

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