Homestead Exemptions

Several types of homestead exemptions have been enacted to reduce the burden of ad valorem taxation for Georgia homeowners. The exemptions apply to homestead property owned by the taxpayer and occupied as their legal residence (some exceptions to this rule apply and the tax commissioner can explain them).

To receive the benefit of the homestead exemption, taxpayers must file an initial application. In Dade County the application is filed with the Board of Assessors. Georgia law allows for the year-round filing of homestead application, but the application must be received by March 1 of the year for which the exemption is first claimed by the taxpayer. Homestead applications received after that date will be applied to the next tax year.

Once granted, the homestead exemption is automatically renewed each year and the taxpayer does not have to apply again unless there is a change of ownership or the taxpayer seeks to qualify for a different kind of exemption.

Under authority of the State Constitution, several different types of homestead exemptions are provided. In addition, local governments are authorized to provide for increased exemption amounts and several have done so. The tax Commissioner in your county can answer questions regarding the standard exemption as well as any local exemptions that are in place.

The Local County Exemptions supersede the state exemption amount when the local exemption is greater than the state exemption.

Dade County has such an exemption. Dade County's Local Homestead Exemption is available to homeowners with an annual income not exceeding $15,000 (homeowners who are 70 or older on or before January 1 of the year in which application for exemption is made). This exemption exempts county taxes only, and can be for up to five acres on the homestead property.

Dade County also has a local exemption for 65 and older for school M&O relief. The homestead property and up to five acres will be exempt from school tax. Applications are accepted in the same time frame as state exemptions. Homeowners must be 65 or older by January 1 of the taxable year.

Dade County has a Value Freeze: H.B. 918/919 allows the taxpayer to freeze the assessment, based upon the previous year value, on homestead property. This is for county and school purposes on your house and up to three acres.

The Standard Homestead Exemption is available to all homeowners who otherwise qualify by ownership and residency requirements and it is an amount equal to $2,000 which is deducted from the 40 percent assessed value of the homestead property. The exemption applies to the maintenance and operation portion of the mill rate levy of the county and the county school system and the State mill rate levy. It does not apply to the portion of the mill rate levied to retire bonded indebtedness.

The Standard Elderly School Tax Homestead Exemption is an increased homestead exemption for homeowners 62 and older where the net income of the applicant and spouse does not exceed $10,000 for the preceding year. Social Security income and certain retirement income are excluded from the calculation of the income threshold. This exemption applies to school tax including taxes levied to retire bonded indebtedness. The amount of the exemption is up to $10,000 deducted from the 40 percent assessed value of the homestead property.

The Standard Elderly General Homestead Exemption is available to homeowners who otherwise qualify and who are 65 and older where the net income of the applicant and spouse does not exceed $10,000 for the preceding year. Social Security income and certain retirement income are excluded from the calculation of the income threshold. This exemption, which is in an amount up to $4,000 deducted from the 40 percent assessed value of the homestead property applies to county taxes, school taxes, and the state tax and it does apply to taxes levied to retire bonded indebtedness.

The Disabled Veterans Homestead Exemption is available to certain disabled veterans or to the un-remarried spouse or minor children in an amount up to $50,000 deducted from the 40 percent assessed value of the homestead property. This exemption applies to all ad valorem tax levies; however, it is restricted to certain types of very serious disabilities and proof of disability, either from the Veterans Administration or from a private physician in certain circumstances. A similar exemption in the same amount is now available to the un-remarried surviving spouse of a member of the armed forces of the United States who was killed in any war or armed conflict engaged in by the United States. The surviving spouse must furnish appropriate documentation that spousal benefits are received as a result of the death of the armed forces member.

The Floating or Varying Homestead Exemption is an exemption which is available to homeowners 62 or older with gross household incomes of $30,000 or less. The exemption applies to state and county ad valorem taxes but it does not apply to school tax. The exemption is called a floating exemption because the amount of the exemption increases as the value of the homestead property is increased. Since, however, the exemption is already in place for the property, taxpayers should be very careful in making application because in many instances the granting of this exemption will, at least initially, increase the amount of taxes levied on the property.

The Homeowner Tax Relief Grant, authorized by the Governor and the General Assembly, provides a tax relief credit in an amount up to $8,000 in assessed value for all homeowners who are receiving one of the normal homestead exemptions. This relief is shown on the property tax bill for State, County, school and city purposes as a credit against taxes that otherwise would have been due. In addition to the various homestead exemptions that are authorized, the law also provides a Property Tax Deferral Program whereby qualified homestead property owners 62 and older with gross household income of $15,000 or less may defer but not exempt the payment of ad valorem taxes on a part or all of the homestead property. Generally, the tax would be deferred until the property ownership changes or until such time that the deferred taxes plus interest reach a level equal to 85 percent of the fair market value of the property.

With respect to all of the homestead exemptions, the Board of Tax Assessors makes the final determination as to eligibility; however, if the application is denied, the taxpayer must be notified. An appeal procedure then is available for the taxpayer.