Homestead exemption fraud is a serious issue that affects every taxpayer. Homestead exemption was created as a benefit for homeowners who live in Florida and make it their permanent and legal residence. When someone is receiving an exemption to which he or she is not entitled, that is considered homestead fraud.
Homestead fraud can occur in a variety of ways. One of the most common occurrences is when an individual or married couple apply for and are approved for a homestead exemption; and subsequently, it is determined that they are not a permanent resident of Columbia County. Learn more about Florida requirements for permanent residency.
It is also illegal for a person or a married couple to claim more than one "residency based exemption" within the U.S. or Puerto Rico.
More Ways Fraud Can Occur
Other ways fraud can occur is when the status of the property or of the individual(s) benefiting from the homestead exemption changes and the property owner(s) fails to inform our office. This includes, but is not limited to, the following:
- All or any portion of the homesteaded property is or has been rented.
- Owner no longer occupies the property as their permanent residence.
- Owner has permanently moved to an assisted living facility.
- Owner has married or remarried.
- Owner is deceased.
- Ownership of the property has changed.
- One or more owners claims a permanent residency based tax exemption or tax credit on another property elsewhere in the U.S. This includes married couples where one or both people claim a residency based exemption on another property.
Exemptions are not transferable or inheritable.
At the beginning of every year, an automatic renewal receipt for property tax exemption is mailed to individuals benefiting from a homestead exemption in Columbia County. This receipt, mailed in the form of a postcard, must be returned to our office if the status of the property or of the individual(s) benefiting from the homestead exemption has changed.
Please Note: It may appear on our website that someone has two homestead exemptions when they in fact do not. This is because the status of a property on January 1 each year is used to determine the property’s value and exemptions for the entire year. This means if a property owner has homestead exemption and sells the property after January 1st, his exemption will remain on the property for the entire calendar year, and will be removed as of January 1 of the next year. Although there will still be an exemption on the property after the sale, it is NOT the new owner’s exemption. Check the date of sale to see if this is pertinent to the property. Also, multiple ownership of homesteaded property can lead to confusion about homestead eligibility. One owner may qualify for homestead exemption while the others do not. Please contact our office for multiple ownership details.
If you know of anyone who is claiming homestead exemption on a property where he or she has not established permanent residency, is rented, vacant or is merely a vacation home, we urge you to make a report to our office by completing the form below.