Real estate taxes in Florida are complicated for married couples when both husbands and wives each claim homestead real estate tax exemptions on separate properties. Some courts say yes, others no. The decisions are based on important facts about the married couple and the way they live.
When each spouse lives in a separate Florida residence, can each spouse claim a homestead real estate tax exemption? Florida courts have answered this question on a case-by-case basis. The rulings depend on the facts of each case. The primary issue in each court case was whether the spouses are one family unit. If the courts concluded the spouses are one family unit, the couple was limited to one homestead real estate tax exemption.
The courts said yes to each spouse having a homestead real estate tax exemption when they lived in separate residences, based upon the important facts below:
- The spouses had virtually no contact with one another.
- The spouses had no financial, emotional or other connections to one another.
- No spouse provided any benefit, income or support to the other.
- Each spouse had a separate residence she or he maintained with no assistance from the other spouse.
- The spouses were technically married in the eyes of the court; but they were estranged, living separate lives with no connection to each another.
The courts said no to each spouse having a homestead real estate tax exemption, even though each spouse lived in a separate residence, based upon the important facts below:
- The couple maintained a congenial marriage.
- The couple was perceived as a single family unit, although they maintained separate residences. A single-family unit means even though each spouse lived in a separate primary residence most of the time, they lived together at different periods of time, supported each other in some financial or emotional way or presented themselves as a married couple.
Before spouses decide to each claim a homestead real estate tax exemption on their separate residences, they would be wise to get advice from a real estate attorney. If the separate homestead claims are made and rejected, one of the spouses will incur a penalty and still be required to pay the real estate tax, plus accrued interest. If you would like a complimentary consultation to discuss this or another topic of concern, contact us at 813-852-6500. Howard Stross is certified in real estate law by The Florida Bar Board of Legal Specialization and Education.
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