It’s time to file for your homestead tax exemption. If you’ve already filed, you don’t need to file for it again, but if you bought a home in 2015 and lived in the house on January 1, 2016, you’ll want to get that homestead tax exemption! You have until April 30th to apply for your exemption, but it’s best to get it out of the way and be done with it. You must use your home as your primary residence and cannot claim multiple exemptions on different properties – you only get one homestead. In order to claim your homestead, you’ll need to fill out an Application for Residential Homestead Exemption (PDF) and file it with your local appraisal district. Make sure you have updated your driver’s license with your new address as well, as you’ll need a copy of that to file along with the application. Once you have the form completed and all the necessary items (see the form for full details), you’ll need to send everything off to your local appraisal district (done by county here in Texas). If you need to look up where to send it, you can visit the Texas Comptroller’s website for the appraisal district directory. Once there, just locate your county and click on the link to find all the mailing information for your local appraisal district.
Once you have a homestead tax exemption, it gives you a $25,000 exemption (they raised it from $15,000 in 2015) on the assessed value of your home. Let’s say the tax assessed value of your home is $200,000. With a homestead tax exemption, you will be taxed on the home as if it were assessed at $175,000 ($200,000 minus the $25,000 exemption).
If you receive letters in the mail telling you that they will file this claim for you, throw them in the trash! Filing your homestead exemption is free and you should not pay anyone to do it for you. Many of the letters you’ll see in the mail will look official and make it look like you need to pay someone in order to claim the exemption. This is simply not true. File the forms yourself (they’re not even that hard to fill out) and file for free. If you need some assistance, contact your real estate agent and they’ll be happy to help.
There are also some other exemptions you may be eligible for (and they are all applied for on the same application): disabled person exemption, age 65 or older exemption (also may apply to a surviving spouse), 100% disabled veterans exemption (also may apply to a surviving spouse), donated residence homestead of partially disabled veteran exemption (also may apply to a surviving spouse), and surviving spouse of member of armed forces killed in action exemption. See the application for more details on each of these.
image courtesy of psyberartist