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February 26, 2003

Florida Seniors Can Save Money on Property Taxes by Submitting Applications for Tax Exemption

TALLAHASSEE - Eligible Florida seniors can save on their 2003 property-tax bills by applying for the additional $25,000 homestead exemption available in 41 Florida counties and 120 cities, according to the Florida Departments of Revenue and Elder Affairs. Forms should be received by Florida property appraisers by March 3, 2003.

"Florida seniors have contributed so much to America and Florida alike," said Governor Jeb Bush. "This tax exemption is an effort by state and local government to recognize the important role they play. I urge eligible Florida elders to take advantage of this provision of tax law created especially for their benefit."

Under a state constitutional amendment adopted in 1998, Florida cities and counties may adopt an additional homestead exemption from property tax for senior citizens in households earning $21,599 or less in adjusted gross income for federal tax purposes per year. In most cases, all or part of a taxpayer's Social Security payments are excluded from income counted toward the $21,599 figure, but circumstances will vary depending on a particular taxpayer's financial status. For more information, taxpayers should consult IRS Publication 915 for details. The Department of Revenue previously had issued a statement saying that all Social Security income was excluded. To be eligible for the exemption, the homeowner must be at least 65 years of age.

As of February 2003, 41 Florida counties and 120 cities have adopted the senior citizen homestead exemptions, in amounts ranging from $5,000 to $25,000. Even if seniors received the homestead exemption last year, they should submit appropriate forms to their local property appraiser, postmarked by March 3. 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 at the time of filing.

For information about your local property appraiser's office, please consult the Blue Pages (Government Listings) of your local telephone directory, or visit the Florida Department of Revenue Internet site at www.myflorida.com/dor/. Look for the "Property" tab on the green navigational linkbar across the top of the DOR Internet homepage. Forms for application for senior homestead exemptions 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. Under Florida law, regular homestead exemptions are automatically renewed every year unless taxpayers send in a postcard-size tax form indicating that they are no longer eligible for the regular homestead property tax exemption.

However, unlike the regular homestead exemption, eligible elder homeowners must complete an income-verification form for the senior citizen homestead exemption every year and bring or send it to their county property appraiser's office.