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January 29, 2004

Income Limit Rises for Florida Seniors' Extra Homestead Exemption

Tallahassee - Floridians who are 65 years or older and with 2003 household incomes of $22,096 or less in adjusted gross income could be eligible for an additional $25,000 homestead property-tax exemption this year if they live in any of the 46 Florida counties and 121 cities that have adopted the additional tax benefit, the Florida Department of Revenue announced.

"I believe that any family's income belongs to the taxpayers, not to the government," said Governor Jeb Bush." Any fiscally responsible opportunity to let taxpayers keep more of their own income we should take." Statewide, an estimated four in 10 senior households that are eligible for the additional tax benefit take advantage of it, according to Revenue Department estimates. In 2003, 148,000 households received the exemption.

The income limitation for the 2004 tax year is up 2.3 percent from last year's limit of $21,599 in adjusted gross income as reported for federal income-tax purposes. Under Florida law, the income limitation is adjusted annually to compensate for inflation. Application forms for the additional senior citizen's homestead exemption, available from Florida property appraisers, are due by March 1, 2004.

A 1998 state constitutional amendment allows Florida cities and counties to offer an additional homestead exemption from property tax to senior citizens age 65 and older and with incomes below annually adjusted limits. In most cases, all or part of a taxpayer's Social Security benefit is excluded from income when computing adjusted gross income, but circumstances will vary according to taxpayers' finances. For more information, taxpayers should consult IRS Publication 915.

46 Florida counties and 121 cities have adopted the senior citizen homestead exemptions, in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. To find out if your county or city is one of these, call your local property appraiser. A list of Florida property appraisers is available at the Florida Department of Revenue Internet site at www.myflorida.com/dor/property

Even if seniors received the homestead exemption last year, they must apply for the exemption for 2004 by submitting the appropriate forms to their local property appraiser, postmarked by March 1. Elders must verify that their income meets eligibility requirements, either through submission of income-tax information or by filling out a special form available from the property appraisers. First-time applicants can submit an application for the exemption and follow up with income-tax data if that information is not available when filing the application for exemption. Forms are available from the local property appraiser's office, but are not directly available from the Department of Revenue.

If elders need assistance in obtaining the exemption application form, they should call the Elder Helpline at 1-800-96-ELDER (1-800-963-5337) or visit the Florida Department of Elder Affairs Internet site at www.myflorida.com/doea/.

The seniors' homestead exemption is in addition to any other property tax exemptions, including the regular $25,000 homestead exemption available to all Florida residents.