Homeowners typically apply one time for a homestead exemption through their county tax assessor's office. Once you go through the process and are approved, your homestead exemption automatically will roll over each year, provided that you continue to meet certain criteria. If you vacate your property temporarily, certain states will allow you to retain your homestead exemption as long as you don't declare a primary residence elsewhere. The availability of the homestead exemption varies by state, with certain states allowing all homeowners to receive it while others restrict it to seniors or the disabled. Generally, there is no fee to apply, but you must file paperwork.
What Are Homestead Exemptions?
Homestead exemptions are deductions on your property taxes. The exemption amount is deducted from your home's assessed value, and you instead pay property taxes on the new, lesser amount. Homestead exemptions can apply to any type of residence: a house, a condo, a townhouse or a mobile home. Homesteads can be up to 20 acres, but the usual rule is the entire portion of the property earning the homestead exemption must be “related to the residential use of the homestead,” according to the Georgia Webb County's Appraisal District.
Homestead Exemption Requirements
Homestead exemptions only apply to your primary residence, and it must be your primary residence as of January 1 of that tax year. In addition, an individual must be the owner of the home. No corporately owned or business-owned property is eligible for a homestead exemption. If you're requesting a homestead exemption for a condo or mobile home, you don't have to own the land it's on, but you must own the mobile home or condo unit.
There's no federal homestead exemption, so laws, procedures and benefits can vary by state (and even county-by-county within each state). Delaware, Pennsylvania and Rhode Island are the only states that have no homestead exemption laws on the books. States that have homestead exemptions offer varying value from a maximum of $5,000 claimed in Alabama to $550,000 in Nevada. Certain states use set values for homestead exemptions, while others, including Georgia, calculate the exemption as a percentage—Georgia will exempt 40 percent of the fair market value from taxation.
Additional Homestead Exemptions
Certain states have additional homesteads or exemptions for homesteads that are easier to qualify for. One of the most common additional exemptions is an exemption for seniors. In Webb County, Texas, citizens 65 or older can qualify for an exemption that caps education property taxes forever at the rate of the year the resident turns 65. In Ohio, anyone who reaches 65 or is declared permanently disabled is entitled to a $25,000 homestead exemption.