Florida Homestead Tax Exemption - One Residence Per Family Unit
Couples moving to Florida often search for the trick to maintaining their property tax exemptions on two homes, one in Florida and one elsewhere. However, there is only one special carve out that permits a married couple in Florida the ability to maintain their property tax exemptions on two homes; unfortunately chances are you do not fit within the parameters.
The single exception is for a married couple to establish that they are “separate family units”. Wells v. Haldeos, 48 So. 3d 85 (Fla. 2d DCA 2010). The married couple in Wells owned two homes. The husband and wife claimed a homestead tax exemption for both residences, the husband's residence in Florida and the wife's residence in New York. The Pasco County Property Appraiser challenged the Florida residency-based tax exemption, arguing that both homes were owned jointly as husband and wife and only one exemption was appropriate. However, the couple had been separated for many years and were financially independent during that time, despite their marital status. A fact based inquiry into the couple’s relationship, involvement, living situation, and shared expenses led the trial court to rule in favor of the husband and wife. The trial court stated, “it would defy logic for two people ‘who have no contact with one another, who don’t have any connections of a financial, emotional or any other way to call them a family unit.’” Id. at 86.
On appeal the Second District Court of Appeal held, “where the husband and wife have established two separate residences in good faith and have no financial connection with and do not provide benefits, income or support to each other, each may be granted a homestead exemption if they otherwise qualify.” Id. at 88. This was the first appellate case in Florida to address the definition of “family unit” in the context of homestead exemptions.
In a similar case four years later, the Fourth District Court of Appeal further clarified this exception. Brklacic v. Parrish, 149 So. 3d 85 (Fla. 4th DCA 2014), rev. den., 157 So. 3d 1041. The Fourth District stated that couples who intermingle some funds and regularly spend time together in the same residence are excluded from claiming two homestead exemptions. In order to establish two separate family units and qualify for two residency based tax exemptions, a married couple must be truly separate in everything they do.
By: Ashley Duncan Segal, July 1, 2019