Florida's homestead credit change could affect thousands



SEMINOLE COUNTY, Fla. - A change in Florida's homestead credit could affect thousands of families, especially those caring for elderly parents.

WFTV's Bianca Castro explains how owning two homes can now qualify you for a credit!

Winter Springs City Commissioner Avery Smith took care of her aging parents and moved them into her Casselberry home.

"Particularly, my mom was not able to cook for herself, do any of the laundry, clean or do anything like that," said Smith.

She claimed a homestead tax exemption on the home, but when county officials learned her husband claimed a homestead exemption on their Winter Springs home, Smith was accused of double dipping and forced to pay back taxes.

But now, WFTV learned the state Supreme Court recently ruled that people can get a tax break on a home they don't live in as long as they can prove a legal or natural dependent lives there.

"This impacts every homeowner in Florida," said Smith.

The ruling says you don't have to live in the state to qualify. For example, homeowners can buy a home for their college student here while living thousands of miles away, but since the child lives here, they can receive a homestead exemption.

Now property-appraiser offices everywhere are reviewing the verdict to see just how many Floridians could be affected.

"Each property owner and set of circumstances are unique, especially when you get into dependency and that type of thing. That's why we have to be very careful and analyze those on a case-by-case basis," said David Johnson, Seminole County property appraiser.

Smith is poised to get a $3,100 refund, and encourages others to get what she says "they deserve."

"There are lots of daughters and sons out there doing the same thing as I am doing," said Smith.

If you think you qualify for a homestead exemption under this court verdict, don't expect a refund on past taxes. You're only eligible from this point forward, unless you've been involved in litigation with your county's property appraiser. Call your property appraiser directly if you have questions about your homestead exemption status.