How to file your Homestead Exemption for Property Taxes

February 21, 2019
Homestead and Taxes

How to File your Homestead Exemption

  1. You must own your home before Jan 1 of the year you want to file your homestead exemption.
  2. Update your driver's license or state ID to the address of your homestead.
  3. Download the "Residential Homestead Exemption (includes Over-65 and Disability Exemptions)" form from your county's website.
  4. Fill out the form and send in a copy of your driver's license.
  5. Homestead exemption forms can be filed between Jan 1 and April 30th

Another method (SUPER EASY) is to just download the HCAD app on Android or Apple

  1. Download the mobile app
  2. Using the app, take a photo of the front and back of your driver's license
  3. Draw your signature on the app
  4. Submit!

This is Part 1 of How to file your Homestead Exemption and Protest your County Property Taxes. Over the next few weeks I'll outline how to file your homestead exemption (and other exemptions such as disabled, over 65, disable veteran, etc) and how to protest and fight your property values.

Read below for more information about filing your homestead exemption:

Basically you need to buy and CLOSE on your home the preceding year you file your homestead exemption. For example, if you closed on your home by December 31, 2018, then you can file your homestead exemption on Jan 1 for 2019 property taxes. If you close on Jan 1, 2019 then you will have to wait until Jan 1, 2020 to file your homestead exemption with the county.

Go to the DMV and update your driver's license or state ID. Your license or ID must match the same address as the property for which you're requesting a homestead exemption (ie your homestead address). You can usually schedule an appointment online with the DMV so you don't have to wait in long lines :) OR, even EASIER, you may be able to update your driver's license address online.

Download your Homestead Exemption forms. The Harris County Residential Homestead Exemption can be downloaded here. The Montgomery County Homestead Exemption Form can be downloaded here. The Fort Bend County Homestead Exemption Form can be downloaded here. The Galveston CAD Homestead Exemption Form can be downloaded here. The Brazoria Homestead Exemption Form can be downloaded here.

Fill out your form, choose your requested/applicable exemptions and then send in the form to your County Appraisal District with a copy of your driver's license showing the address of the property you're applying for exemption.

You must file the completed application with all required documentation beginning Jan.1 and no later than April 30 of the year for which you are requesting an exemption. If you qualify for the age 65 or older or disabled persons exemption, or the exemption for donated homesteads of partially disabled veterans, you must apply for the exemption no later than the first anniversary of the date you qualify for the exemption. Pursuant to Tax Code Section 11.431, you may file a late application for a residence homestead exemption after the deadline for filing has passed. Effective beginning with the 2016 tax year, the late application must be filed not later than two years after the delinquency date for the taxes on the homestead.

Once your exemption has been filed and accepted, you do not need to renew the exemption each year. You DO need to notify your county's appraisal district if the exemptions change.

Benefits of filing for homestead and other exemptions

  1. Save money!
  2. Keep your property taxes lower
  3. Limit the increase of your property taxes each year

You can save money on taxes by filing your tax exemptions:

  • School taxes — all homeowners. If you qualify for the homestead exemption, you will receive at least a $25,000 homestead exemption on the value of your home for school district taxes.
  • County taxes — all homeowners. Harris County currently provides a 20% optional homestead exemption to all homeowners. This means, for example, that if your home is valued at $100,000, the exemption will reduce its taxable value for Harris County taxes by $20,000 to $80,000.
  • Optional exemptions — all homeowners. Any taxing unit, including a school district, city, county or special district, may offer an exemption for up to 20% of your home's value. The amount of an optional exemption can't be less than $5,000, no matter what the percentage is. For example, if your home is valued at $20,000 and your city offers a 20% optional exemption, your exemption is $5,000, even though 20% of $20,000 is just $4,000. The governing body of each taxing unit decides whether it will offer the exemption and at what percentage. This percentage exemption is added to any other homestead exemption for which the applicant qualifies.

You can limit your tax increase and add a cap to annual property tax increases:

An additional benefit of the general homestead exemption, especially in an appreciating housing market, is the homestead cap, or limitation on increases in appraised value. The cap applies to your homestead beginning in the second year you have a homestead exemption. The cap law provides that if you qualify, the value on which your taxes will be calculated (called your appraised value) cannot exceed the lesser of:

  1. This year’s market value; or
  2. Last year’s appraised value, plus 10% plus the value added by any new improvements made during the preceding year.

If homes are appreciating at more than 10% per year, the cap can provide substantial tax savings. For more information, click here.

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