What Is Homestead Exemption
A Little-Known Homestead Secret With Big Benefits
The homestead exemption is a legal resource designed to provide an exemption from property taxes, which can be applied to a home, among other benefits.
Laws are found in state statutes or constitutional provisions, which exist in many states in the United States.
The homestead exemption in certain southern states has its legal origins in colonial Spanish exemption laws.
Exemption laws in other states were enacted in response to the effects of economic depressions in the 19th century.
Homestead exemption laws typically have four primary features:
- They prevent the forced sale of a home to meet the demands of creditors. However, in most cases homestead exemption does not apply to forced sales to satisfy mortgages, mechanics liens, or sales to overpay property taxes;
- They provide the surviving spouse with shelter;
- Allows a tax-exempt homeowner to vote on property tax increases to homeowners over the threshold via bond or millage requests.
For purposes of these statutes, a homestead is the one primary residence of a person, and no other exemption can be claimed on any other property anywhere, even outside the boundaries of the jurisdiction where the exemption is claimed.
In some states, homestead protection is automatic.
In many states, however, homeowner will not receive the protections of the law until you file a claim for homestead exemption with the county or state.
Furthermore, the protection can be lost if the homeowner abandons the protected property by taking up primary residence elsewhere.
Immunity From Forced Sale
Different jurisdictions provide different degrees of protection under homestead exemption laws.
Some only protect property up to a certain value, while others are limited by acreage limitations.
If homesteads exceed these limits, creditors may still force the sale, while the homesteader may keep a certain amount of the proceeds of the sale.
Property Tax Exemption
A homestead exemption is most often only on a fixed monetary amount, such as the first $50,000 of the assessed value.
The remainder is taxed at the normal rate.
In that case, a home valued at $150,000 would then only be fixed on $100,000; a home valued at $75,000 would be taxed only on $25,000.
The exemption is generally intended to make the property tax a progressive tax.
In some places, the exemption is paid for with a local or state (or equivalent unit) sales tax.
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