Qualifying for a homestead exemption
- You owned and occupied the property on January 1st of tax year you want to apply the homestead exemption.
- Owning means the deed is in your name.
- Occupying means you can prove you were living in the property. This usually comes in the form of a utility bill.
- You are claiming this property as your primary residence.
- This is usually proved by providing a copy of your drivers license to show the address matches the address of the property on the application.
- You are not claiming a homestead for any other property. This is the sole property you are claiming a homestead for.
The deadline to file a homestead exemption
As a test, I did a quick google search of “deadline to file a homestead exemption”. Google has these handy “Knowledge Cards” that display answers to the questions it thinks it knows the answers to right the top. I took a screenshot of the one I received and if you live in Texas, you have a good chance of seeing the same knowledge card. According to the answer provided by “hcad.org” (Harris County) they say you should file your homestead exemption by April 30th in order for it to be processed in time your tax bill. THIS IS A MISLEADING ANSWER!
I say this is misleading because the paragraph begins with “Application Deadlines”. April 30th is NOT the actual deadline. What they are saying is this is the recommended time you file your homestead to ensure it is reflected on your upcoming tax bill. The real deadline is: “…up to two years after the delinquency date. The delinquency date is normally February 1st.” (Source: Texas Comptroller) What does this mean?
The real deadline
Below is a screenshot I took from the Texas Comptrollers website. As a side note, the Texas Comptroller is source that will almost always trump any other source you find on the internet regarding Texas Property Tax Law.
The best way to understand this is to run through a quick example. Let’s say you qualify for a homestead exemption on January 1st 2019. Your 2019 property taxes become delinquent February 1st 2020 (the deadline to pay is January 31st 2020). This means “up to” 2 years the delinquency date of your 2019 taxes is January 31st 2022. You have until the end of the day January 31st 2022 to file a homestead exemption for your 2019 taxes. In this case, the end of the day could be defined as certified mail that is dated on January 31st, 2022 or that you actually drop you exemption application off at the appraisal district and get is stamped as received on January 31st 2022.
What if you file past the recommended April 30th deadline?
The appraisal district’s typically set a deadline of April 30th to ensure your exemption will be reflected on you tax bill that you receive in October. Filing beyond April 30th may result in a situation where you are owed refund from the taxing authorities. Refunds can take up to 90 days and isn’t always a smooth process, so I defiantly recommend file your homestead exemption by April 30th if you can.
What about the 10% cap in value increase if I forgot to file a homestead exemption?
The 10% homestead cap is a topic for another blog, but if you file your homestead exemption after preliminary value notices are sent, you can retroactively apply the 10% value increase. If you have already paid taxes then your tax bill will need to recalculated using the 10% cap in value increase and a refund will be issued. You can collect a refund for up to two (2) years.
Just remember, you are not entitled to a 10% cap in value increase the year after a purchase. So if you purchased a home in 2018, you will not be eligible for a 10% cap in 2019. You will, however, be eligible for a homestead exemption in 2019, so go ahead and apply. Your 10% cap will automatically kick in for 2020 if you have a homestead exemption on the property.