Property Tax Exemptions: Are You Getting Yours?
by State Senator John Carona
When you celebrate your 65th birthday, blow out the candles and head to your local appraisal district office if you are a homeowner with a homestead exemption. In Texas, homeowners 65 and over qualify for an additional required exemption and freeze on their school property taxes and may qualify for other additional exemptions and freezes adopted on a voluntary basis by local taxing units such as school districts, cities, and counties.
Q: What is the special required exemption on school taxes for those 65 and over?
A: As a homeowner in Texas, you already qualify for a required $15,000 homestead exemption on your primary residence for school tax purposes. You probably applied for the $15,000 exemption when you first purchased your home, and it has been automatically applied since then. When you turn 65, you qualify for a required additional $10,000 homestead exemption on your primary residence for school tax purposes, but you have to apply for it. Here is how it works: With a house appraised at $100,000, you would subtract the $15,000 all homeowners are entitled to, then subtract the 65 and over exemption of $10,000, bringing the value of your house for school tax purposes to $75,000. Your local school district tax rate would then be applied to the $75,000 amount.
Q: What is meant by freezing my taxes?
A: Another required benefit for those 65 and over is the freeze or ceiling on school taxes. The amount at which your taxes will freeze will vary with the amount of tax you owe the year you become eligible for the exemption. For example, if you are currently paying $1,000 per year in school property taxes and you turn 65 and apply for the tax freeze, your taxes will be frozen at $1,000 even if the school district increases taxes or the appraised value of your home increases. The only way you would pay more once you have filed and qualified for the over 65-tax freeze would be if you improve your home. For example, if you add a garage or a room to your home, your tax ceiling can rise.
Q: What other special exemptions and freezes are there for those 65 and over?
A: School districts, cities, counties, and some special districts also offer voluntary locally-adopted exemptions and freezes. For example, the Dallas ISD 65 and over homestead exemption amount is $45,000. You can contact your local appraisal district to see what other exemptions and freezes might be available. You can also contact your local school districts, cities, and counties to find out what exemptions they offer or are considering offering.
Q: What do I need to do in order to qualify for the 65 and over exemptions and freezes?
A: To qualify for the additional $10,000 (or more depending on what your local taxing jurisdictions have adopted) exemption and the tax freeze for school tax purposes, you must apply at the appraisal district for the county in which you live. You will be asked to show proof of age. This can be achieved by making a copy of the front side of your driver's license or a copy of your birth certificate. You may obtain an application form at your local appraisal district office or download the form from the Internet in most cases. It is important to note that the Dallas County Appraisal District requires you to have the application notarized.
Q: Do I need to pay to apply for homestead exemptions and tax freezes?
A: No. There are those that will solicit you to pay them to apply for your homestead exemptions and tax freezes for you. You do not need to pay anyone to help you with these applications. Your local appraisal district will provide you with all forms and assist you with any questions you might have. If you ever receive such a solicitation letter and want to verify its authenticity, you may call the Consumer Protection Division at the Texas Attorney General's Office at (800) 621-0508.
Q: What if I am already over 65 and have not applied for the additional exemptions(s) and tax freeze(s)?
A: You can apply now. The law provides that the 65 and over homestead exemption and tax freeze for school tax purposes will be retroactive for only one year (even if you are well over 65 when you apply). Upon qualifying for the 65 and over homestead exemption and freeze, you will be eligible to receive a refund for property taxes paid in excess of the tax ceiling in the previous year.
Q: Is it possible to defer paying my property taxes?
A: Persons 65 and over may opt to defer paying their property taxes. You may postpone property taxes on your home for as long as you own and live in it. However, this only postpones them; it does not cancel them. When the property is sold or comes under the ownership of heirs, the taxes plus 8% interest per year become payable. If you should choose to defer paying your taxes, you will remain and are still eligible for all of the same exemptions, the only difference is you are deferring the tax payments.
Property tax relief is possible for everyone 65 and over who qualifies for a homestead exemption--but you must apply.
State Senator John Carona
8080 N. Central Expressway
Suite 1440, LB 44
Dallas, TX 75206
Central Appraisal District of Collin County
2404 K Avenue
Plano, TX 75074
Cooke County Appraisal District
201 North Dixon Street
Gainesville, TX 76240
Dallas Central Appraisal District
2949 North Stemmons Freeway (I35E)
Dallas, TX 75247
Denton Central Appraisal District
3911 Morse Street
Denton, TX 76208
Ellis Central Appraisal District
400 Ferris Avenue
Waxahachie, TX 76165
Fannin County Appraisal District
831 West State Highway 56
Bonham, TX 75418
Grayson County Appraisal District
205 North Travis
Sherman, TX 75090
Rockwall Central Appraisal District
841 Justin Road
Rockwall, TX 75087-2508
Tarrant Appraisal District
2500 Handley-Ederville Road
Ft Worth, TX 76118