CHIEF'S APPRAISAL: Is your homestead application up to date? - Chief's Appraisal - Odessa

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CHIEF'S APPRAISAL: Is your homestead application up to date?

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Anita Campbell is the chief appraiser for the Ector County Appraisal District. Her column on tax issues appears on the first Sunday of each month.

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You or someone you know may have received an alarming correspondence from the appraisal district asking you to renew the “homestead” exemption you have had in place for years.  Beginning in September, our office began requesting reapplication and current Texas ID information for over 4,600 homeowners.

This property tax exemption is actually the residential homestead exemption, meaning you can receive the tax reduction only on your principal residence. Under Texas law, a family or single adult is entitled to a partial exemption on the assessed value of the residence homestead. The residence homestead includes land up to twenty acres and structures used in the residential occupancy. The structures must be designed or adapted for human residence, used as a residence, and occupied by the owner as his principal residence. This means you must own the single-family residence and you must reside in the property as your principal residence on January 1 to claim the exemption for that tax year. You may also qualify for additional exemptions if you are over 65 years of age or disabled as defined in the Federal Old-Age, Survivors, and Disability Insurance Act.

The homestead exemption application process is simple and usually takes only a few minutes, but appraisal districts are required by law to verify the information in your application. You will need to provide copies of either driver’s licenses or personal identification cards issued by the Texas DPS, for you and your spouse if applicable. The address on the license or ID must match the property address for which you are claiming the exemption. We realize it can be difficult and there are fees to change your license; but in Texas, you are required by law to change your address within 30 days. And the tax savings of the residential homestead exemption ($800 per year for a home valued at $100,000) far exceeds the costs.

When you purchase a new home and file the residential homestead exemption on the new property, it is your legal responsibility to notify the appraisal district that you no longer qualify for the exemption on your previous residence. If you acquire a property through a divorce, a probated will, or another process other than a deed transfer, you should notify us of the change in ownership and exemption status.

We are also currently auditing homestead exemptions and are notifying owners who have received erroneous or duplicate homestead exemptions. The audit notifications include billing the additional tax without the erroneous exemptions plus interest of 1% per month, up to five previous years. In some cases of multiple exemptions, there is also a penalty of 50 percent of the additional tax. As you can imagine, removing the homestead and over-65 or disability exemption from a property for five years can cause a substantial additional tax. With the additional tax, interest, and the penalty, the total back assessment amount can be considerable.

So please remember these two things: 1-A husband and wife who own multiple homes can claim the residential homestead exemption on only one primary residence. 2-Each owner must apply and qualify for the homestead exemptions. If you now own a home and are receiving exemptions for which you have not applied and qualified, please contact us.  Exemptions for which you have not qualified are subject to back assessments when the error is discovered. Texas courts have ruled the appraisal district and the chief appraiser must back assess up to five years any property that has been erroneously exempted.

Check your account on our website at www.ectorcad.org. If there are exemptions listed in the Deed & Exemption Information section and you didn’t file an application for the residential homestead exemption, please visit us at 1301 E. 8th Street or call us at 432.332-6834. Removing those erroneous exemptions now could save you thousands of dollars. And if you are one of the 4,600 who received the request to reapply, please contact us now to avoid any interruption in your tax savings.

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Anita Campbell is the chief appraiser for the Ector County Appraisal District. Her column on tax issues appears on the first Sunday of each month.