Under Texas law, a resident is eligible to apply for a residence homestead exemption for their principal residence, the home where they live. A homestead can be a separate structure, a condominium or a manufactured home on owned or leased land. It can include up to 20 acres if the homeowner owns the land and uses it for a purpose related to residential use of the household.
The purpose of a residence homestead exemption is to ensure that part of the home’s value is not assessed its full appraised value for property tax purposes. The exemption lowers the homeowner’s tax bill.
Example of Homestead Exemption
A home is appraised at a $100,000, and the homeowner qualifies for a $25,000 exemption. The amount of $25,000 is helpful because a residence homestead owner may deduct the $25,000 homestead exemption from the value of the home for school taxes.
The homeowner then pays school taxes as if the home was worth $75,000. A taxing unit can offer a separate exemption beyond the school district exemption of up to 20 percent of the total value.
No Fee to File Application Form
There is no fee to file a general residence homestead exemption application. The application is a one-time submittal. A homeowner may be asked to reapply periodically to help their county’s appraisal district make sure records are current. The deadline for homeowners to apply is April 30 of the tax year for which they are applying. A homeowner can file a late application up to two years after the delinquency date, typically February 1.
After a homeowner receives an exemption, they do not need to reapply unless the chief appraiser for their county sends them a new application. Then the homeowner is required to file the new application. A homeowner who moves or whose qualification ends must inform the appraisal district in writing before May 1 of the next tax year.
Qualifications for Homestead Exemption
A residence homestead exemption is available to any qualifying homeowner. A corporation or business entity does not qualify as a homeowner. General qualifications for the residence homestead include:
- Being the owner of the residence as of January 1 of the applicable tax year.
- Occupying the residence as a principal residence as of January 1 of the applicable tax year.
- Completing the application for residence homestead exemption and providing additional supporting documentation as required by the appraisal district.
The application is required by the Texas Property Tax Code. The additional supporting documentation may be requested by the appraisal district of the county in which the home sits.
Other Types of Residential Homestead Exemptions
Several other types of homestead exemptions are available in Texas. They include:
- Exemptions for homeowners 65 years of age and older.
- Homeowners with disabilities, veterans with disabilities and the survivors of veterans with disabilities.
- Veterans who were killed while on active duty.
The exemption for a homeowner 65 or older or a homeowner with a disability is effective January 1 of the tax year the applicant qualifies for the homestead. This exemption applies to the whole tax year.
Homestead Exemption Amounts
The amount of the exemption is $10,000 for school taxes, in addition to the $25,000 exemption for all homeowners. An owner who qualifies for the age 65 or older homeowner exemption and the homeowner with disability exemption must choose only one of these exemptions for school taxes. On top of this, a local taxing unit may offer an additional exemption of at least $3,000 for taxpayers age 65 or older and/or with a disability.
A county can collect a special tax for farm-to-market roads or flood control. A residence homestead may receive a $3,000 exemption for this tax. A county that grants an optional exemption for homeowners who are 65 or older or those with a disability can allow the owners to receive only the local-option exemption.
A taxing unit such as a city, county, school or special district may offer an exemption of up to 20 percent of a home’s value. The amount of an optional exemption cannot be less than $5,000. Every taxing unit decides if it will offer an exemption and the percentage of the exemption.
Added to Other Home Exemptions
The percentage of exemption is added to any other home exemption for which the owner qualifies. The taxing unit must decide before July 1 of the tax year to offer the exemption. Individual counties may have other types of exemptions. For example, in Harris County, there is an exemption for homeowners who install a solar-powered or wind-powered energy device.
Temporary Moves From Home
A homeowner who temporarily moves from their home may continue to receive the residence homestead exemption if they do not establish a principal residence in another location. The homeowner must intend to come back to the home and be away less than two years. An individual who does not return to the residence may receive the residence homestead exemption for more than two years if they are in the military service. A homeowner may also continue to receive the residence homestead exemption if they live in a facility providing services related to health, infirmity or aging.
Exemptions With Multiple Homeowners
There are several situations in which a homeowner may receive the residence homestead exemption, but they are not the only homeowner. A married couple with a property that qualifies for residence homestead exemption are treated as community property owners. Each spouse has 100 percent ownership interest in the property.
An individual who inherited property is eligible for the residence homestead exemption as an heir property owner. They will be considered the sole owner for this exemption. An individual who has partial ownership of a home, but is not married nor did they inherit the property, will have an exemption amount based on the interest they own. For example, an individual with a 20 percent interest in a homestead will receive one-fifth, or $5,000, of a $25,000 homestead exemption offered by a school district.
Finding Out if a Home Has an Exemption
An individual can determine whether their homestead has an exemption and the amount of the exemption by searching electronic records on the county appraisal district’s page. For example, in Harris County, a homeowner can create an online account. The account will show what exemptions are applied to the account. The homeowner may be able to search by account number, address or owner name.
- Texas Comptroller: Residence Homestead Exemption, Frequently Asked Questions
- TexasLawHelp.org: Property Taxes and Homestead Exemptions
- Tarrant County, Texas: How Do I...? (Taxes and Registrations)
- Tarrant Appraisal District: Important Information Regarding the Residence Homestead Exemption Application (2021)
- Harris County Appraisal District: Homepage
Jessica Zimmer is a journalist and attorney based in northern California. She has practiced in a wide variety of fields, including criminal defense, property law, immigration, employment law, and family law.