It’s that time of year…time to start thinking about taxes, and time to make sure you have your homestead exemption filed with your appraisal district. The homestead exemption in Texas is a benefit that is part of owning your home, and here are the top questions that get asked.

[EDIT 1/3/2018 : Updated with information for 2017/2018 Homestead Exemptions]

Do I qualify for the Homestead Exemption?

As a general rule, to qualify for a homestead exemption, you must own your home and it must be your principal place of residence on January 1st of the year you file.  So, if you purchased your home in 2017, you have until April 30th, 2018, to apply for the 2018 homestead exemption.

Is there a fee to submit an application for the Homestead Exemption?

NO! Despite several dubious businesses that send out “official-looking” documentation stating that you need to pay them a fee in order to obtain your homestead exemption, it is 100% completely free for you to download the form and submit it. Please do not pay anyone to do this!

Will the Homestead Exemption protect me in case of a lawsuit?

There are 2 laws in Texas that designate a homestead; these are the tax code and the property code. The tax code offers homeowners a way to reduce their local property taxes; the property code allows homeowners to designate their homesteads in order to protect them from forced sales by creditors.

How much will the Homestead Exemption save me?

The homestead exemption removes part of the value of your property from taxation and therefore lowers your tax bill. Travis county currently offers a 20% reduction for homesteaders…let’s look at an example:

Let’s say that the county has arbitrarily appraised your home at $200,000. You reside in Travis County so you qualify for a 20% reduction, which is equal to $40,000. The taxable value of your property is therefore $160,000 and that is the number that your taxes will be based on.  Your total amount of savings is going to be dependent on the taxing unit.

How do I apply for the Homestead Exemption?

If your home is in Travis County, you may receive a homestead exemption form by calling 512-834-9138, or you may go to the Travis Count Appraisal District and download the form from their website. Alternatively, here is a downloadable copy of the TCAD Homestead Exemption form for the 2018 tax year:

50-114_HomesteadExemptionForm_rev-3-17-28-2

Despite several dubious businesses that send out “official-looking” documentation stating that you need to pay them a fee in order to obtain your homestead exemption, it is 100% completely free for you to download the form and submit it.

Does my Homestead Exemption ever expire?

You only need to fill out the exemption form one time, unless it is requested by the chief appraiser. Homestead exemptions renew automatically annually.

What if I own a home in another county besides Travis in the Austin area, like Williamson or Hays County?

You’ll have to visit the respective county’s appraisal district website and complete the process. Williamson County, for example, is now offering the ability to submit a homestead exemption form online:

https://www.wcad.org/online-exemption-information/

For those of you living in Dripping Springs and certain annexed areas in southwest Austin, here is the link for Hays County Appraisal District’s website:

https://www.hayscad.com/

As your Austin Real Estate expert, I would be happy to answer any questions that you may have regarding the homestead exemption, as well as any real estate related questions.

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