Institutional & Non-Profit Exemptions
Qualified organizations may receive a partial or total exemption on their properties:
Click here to view the Florida Exemption Statutes.
Annual Application Required for Exemption
IMPORTANT: If your organization is qualified for a tax exemption, you must file an application (completely answered with supporting schedules) before March 1 of the tax year in order to be eligible. It is also required that initial applications for the first year of tax exemptions be filed on behalf of houses of public worship (including the lots on which they are located, personal property located therein or thereon, parsonages, burial grounds and tombs owned by houses of public worship, individually owned burial rights not held for speculation, or other such eligible property not rented or hired out for other than religious or educational purposes at any time) -- although renewals for houses of public worship are granted without need for additional annual application. All other organizations granted this exemption in a prior year must file a signed renewal card with us by March 1 each year.
Ownership by Non-Profit Organization Required
Florida law requires that all organizational applicants for a tax exemption be non-profit (except for educational institutions). Although qualification as exempt under §501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code is a good start, this alone is not definitive as to non-profit status for exemption purposes under state law. We look at many things, including but not limited to:
See §196.195 of the Florida Statutes for more detailed information.
January 1 is the Determination Date
Florida law directs that the ownership and use of the property as of January 1 of each tax year is the date that determines eligibility for these exemptions. If, for example, an otherwise qualified religious organization purchased a vacant building on January 15 and immediately began holding religious services on the property, the applicant would still not be entitled to the exemption until the next year because it missed the January 1 date set by law. The Florida 4th District Court of Appeals ruled the January 1 date must be strictly interpreted.
"Predominant Use" of the Property Required
In many states, the only requirement for exemption is ownership by a non-profit organization. Florida adds the requirement of "predominant use" for exempt purposes before any exemption may be granted. Property exclusively used for exempt purposes will be totally exempt. Our office considers both economic and actual physical uses in determining predominant use. For example, a building leased for $100,000 per year to the United States Postal Service for use as a post office is being predominantly used for an economic use (to wit: the production of rental income).
Likewise, a vacant lot merely owned by a non-profit group or house of public worship that is intended to be the future site of a church or community center -- but is not currently being used for any church or community center purposes -- is not being "predominantly used" for any eligible purpose (Note: if it is used for parking for church services, or regular tent meetings, etc., it may be eligible -- but additional documentation is needed).
Charitable ExemptionThis is the category under which most applicants qualify. A "charitable purpose" means a function or service which is of such a community service that its discontinuance could legally result in the allocation of public funds for the continuance of the function or service. It is not necessary that public funds be allocated for such function or service but only that any such allocation would be legal. For example, a not-for-profit corporation owns rental housing predominantly used to provide a home for "very low income" residents who qualify for Government-funded rent assistance under Section 8 of the Federal housing law. That use is "charitable." Another not-for-profit corporation provides housing for wealthy, elderly persons who pay a substantial founder's fee and monthly payments. That is not a charitable purpose under the statute, §196.012(7), Florida Statutes.
An educational institution is a federal, state, parochial, church, or private school, charter school, college, or university conducting regular classes and courses of study required for eligibility to certification by, accreditation to, or membership in the State Department of Education of Florida, Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, or the Florida Council of Independent Schools. Note: this excludes most trade schools and non-academic institutions. Qualified educational applicants may be eligible under Florida law to obtain the exemption on land while they are obtaining permits, under construction, etc. Properties leased to charter schools may also be able to qualify for an exemption, provided they meet other conditions set by state law.
Community Center Exemption
The Florida Legislature has provided an exemption for community centers owned by a private, non-profit organization and used predominantly for educational, literary, scientific, religious, or charitable purposes. No alcoholic beverages may be served or consumed on the premises. The exemption is not available to condominium common elements and the property must be generally open and available for use by the general public.
Contact our Institutional Exemptions Section: