Urgent FL Homestead Law Tax Problem

6 Replies

I bought my 1st home in FL. in June of 2008. It was homesteaded in 2009. I got married in 2010. In 2016, I turned my home into a rental property, at which point I notified the city that the home was rented to remove the homestead exemption. Recently the city property appraisers office notified me that I was not entitled to a homestead exemption from 2011-2016. Even though I had documentation that my spouse and I maintained separate residences, they consider us to be one family unit, and as such, they say we are only entitled to 1 exemption, on his home. The tax collector has sent me a bill for over $5,000 in back taxes, along with a 50% penalty for each tax year totaling over $7500, and 15% interest per year, totaling over 10,000. If not paid within the next week, it will continue to accrue interest. If not paid by the 1st week in Nov. they plan on putting a lien on my house. They have told me that the only way to remove the penalties and interest is that if they have made a clerical error, which they claim they have not. I am a private school teacher who makes under 25,000 per year. They want to take my entire life savings if I pay them now, or they will end up taking my house upon my death or if I ever sell it. SOS; Does anyone have any help, experience, recommendations, supporting case law, resolution advice?

SOS; Urgent FL Homestead Tax Prob. Help Requested

Okay, to be clear.....you got married but you and your husband did not live together?

I think you owe them the money.  You don't say which county, but this seems to be Florida law and not county specific.  I found the Broward county tax assessors page:  http://www.bcpa.net/homestead.asp   It contains this statement:

If you or your married spouse have a Homestead Exemption in any other county, state or country (or an equivalent permanent residency-based exemption or tax credit, such as New York's "S.T.A.R." exemption) on another property you also currently own, you will NOT be eligible for a homestead in Broward until after you surrender the exemption in that other jurisdiction. (Note: If you know of someone with a Homestead Exemption in Broward who also maintains an exemption on another property elsewhere, please report this information to our Fraud Investigations Section at 954.357.6900.)

The application for this exemption:  http://floridarevenue.com/dor/property/forms/curre... requires information about both you and your spouse including a statement regarding residency in another state or county for each.  I'm not clear if this form has to be submitted each year or just once.  I'm guessing it gets filed just once then applies until changed.  

That seems very clear.  A married couple is entitled to only one exemption.  Maintaining separate residences is irrelevant.  From what I read here, from the point when you got married, you could have maintained the exemption on either property, but not both.  

However, I also found this page, https://propertytaxinflorida.com/2010/02/17/qualif... that has this statement:

Can my spouse claim a separate homestead exemption on property that they own independently?
Possibly. The Florida Constitution only allows for one homestead exemption per family unit. While the proper interpretation of “family unit” could, and likely will, take up an entirely separate article, most Property Appraisers interpret this provision to mean that a married couple can only receive one homestead exemption. The Attorney General’s office and some trial courts have interpreted this provision to occasionally allow for separate homestead exemptions where the couple is separated or can prove financial independence. However, not all Property Appraisers agree with this interpretation and this issue continues to wind its way through the courts. Anyone who plans to try to obtain separate homestead exemptions should seek the advice of an attorney in order to avoid potentially costly penalties in the future.

Note the statement:  "where the couple is separated or can prove financial independence" and the advice "Anyone who plans to try to obtain separate homestead exemptions should seek the advice of an attorney in order to avoid potentially costly penalties in the future."  So, if you want to try this, I think you may have to take the county to court.

In your shoes I would contact them and try to work out a payment plan.  Most government agencies understand coming up with a big chunk of cash all at once is difficult.  If you both filed these forms before you married and you were unaware you needed to surrender one or the other exemption when you married, I would beg forgiveness and try to get the penalties and interest waived.

Past-due taxes  will be added to your tax bill and if not paid timely they will issue a tax lien certificate  this is the best information to my knowledge

I have already tried to negotiate with them, and was told that according to FL law, ignorance is not an excuse. I was told that the only way penalties and interest could be waved was if they made a clerical error, which they claim that they haven't. All payment plans will continue to accrue 15% interest per yr. I tried to show them proof that we maintained separate residences until 2016. They told me it didn't matter because we are married, and we relied on each other for emotional support, we are only entitled to one homestead exemption. I didn't consider proving financial independence. Maybe I can show them that link you found above, on Monday, and see what they have say.

If it is going to continue to accrue at 15% interest pay it off ASAP. 

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