Conservation EasementsA conservation easement is a perpetual interest in land provided by a landowner to a governmental entity or nongovernment conservation organization. Conservation easements may only be held by governmental or charitable entities that have the conservation purposes described in F.S. 704.063(3).In order for a governmental entity or charitable organization to accept the conservation easements, F.S. 704.06 (2014), specifies that the conservation must serve the purpose of:Retaining land or water areas predominantly in their natural, scenic, open, agricultural, or wooded condition; retaining such areas as suitable habitat for fish, plants, or wildlife; retaining the structural integrity or physical appearance of sites or properties of historical, architectural, archaeological, or cultural significance and maintaining existing land uses. F.S. 704.061(1) (2014) Tax BenefitsFor state ad valorem taxes, F.S. 196.26, which became effective in January 2010 (FL. H.B. 7157), provides a property tax exemption for real property dedicated in perpetuity for conservation purposes. F.S. 196.26(2) states: “Land that is dedicated in perpetuity for conservation purposes and that is used exclusively for conservation purposes is exempt from ad valorem taxations.” According to the statute land that is “dedicated in perpetuity” is “land encumbered by an irrevocable, perpetual conservation easement.” Conservation purposes is limited to the conservation purposes set forth in federal law in 26 U.S.C. 170(h) (4) (A) (i)-(iii).The exclusive use of the land for conservation purposes does not prevent the owner from receiving income from activities that are consistent with the management plan when the income is used to implement, maintain, and manage the property pursuant to the management plan. F.S. 196.26(2). Also, utilization of the land for commercial purposes does not prevent the land from being exempt from ad valorem taxation. However, the exemption will then be limited to 50 percent of the assessed value of the land. F.S. 196.26(3). Generally, land less than 40 contiguous acres will not qualify for this exemption. However, the exemption may be available if, in addition to meeting the other statutory requirements, the property has a management plan with a designated manager and the Acquisition and Restoration Council determines the conservation use will fulfill a significant public benefit. Please note: The application, Form DR-418C is available on the Department of Revenue link on our website under Forms. Deadline for filing this application is March 1. Homestead Exemption InformationWhat is the Homestead Exemption? A homestead exemption reduces the taxable value of the property that you use as your permanent residence by an amount up to $25,000. This represents a substantial savings on the taxes levied against your property by the various taxing authorities.Who May File? Every person who has legal or equitable title to real property in Gulf County, Florida and who has recorded the title instrument in the public records of Gulf County is eligible to file. The applicant must reside on the property as of January 1st of the current year and must, in good faith; make it their permanent residence to be eligible. For example, if you were residing in your permanent residence on January 1, 2013, then you are eligible for a 2013 homestead exemption. When is the Filing Period? Exemption applications must be made between January 1st and March 1st for the tax year eligible. For example, if you are living in your permanent home on January 1, 2013 then you have until the close of business of March 1, 2013 to file your homestead exemption for that year. Failure to make application by March 1 of the tax year shall constitute a waiver of the exemption privilege for that year.Where do I Apply? You can apply at the Gulf County Property Appraiser’s Office. The office is located at 1000 Cecil G. Costin Sr. Blvd, Room 110, Port St. Joe, FL 32456What do I Need to File? First-time applicants must come in person to file their application. You may print and complete the homestead exemption application at the ''Forms'' section of this web site. However, the application and required supporting documentation must be brought to the Gulf County Property Appraiser’s Office. The Following Information Is Required:1.Florida Drivers Licensea.Florida Drivers Licenses Information (www.gulfcountytaxcollector.com)2.Florida Vehicle Tag Number(s) of all vehiclesa.Florida Drivers Licenses Information (www.gulfcountytaxcollector.com)3.Florida Voters Registration Numbera.Florida Voters Registration Information (www.votegulf.com)4.Proof of local utilities payment at potential homestead address5.Social Security Numbera.Social Security Card information (www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/)6.Date of Birth7.Name & Address of Current Employee (If retired, disabled, or self employed see Property Appraiser)8.Copy of IRS return with last/current address on it (you may black out financial information if you are not applying for any other exemption)9.Bank statement & checking account mailing address10.If property is part of a trust, a copy of the trust is neededThe above Homestead Information is to be in accordance with Florida Statute 196.031ADDITIONAL EXEMPTIONSOne can qualify for the additional if and only if they are receiving the Homestead Exemption.$500 Widow’s/Widower’s Exemption: Any widow/widower who is a permanent Florida resident may claim this exemption on real estate used and owned as a homestead. If the widow remarries, she is no longer eligible. If the husband and wife were divorced before his death, the woman will not be considered a widow. If filing for the first time, please produce a death certificate of spouse.$500 Disability Exemption: Every Florida resident who is totally and permanently disabled qualifies for this exemption on real estate used and owned as a homestead. If filing for the first time, please present at least one of the following as proof of your disability: 1.A certificate from a licensed Florida physician 2.A certificate from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs3.Documentation from the Social Security Administration$5,000 Disability Veteran: Any ex-service member who is a permanent resident of Florida and is disabled at least 10% in war or by service-connected misfortune is entitled to a $5,000 exemption on real estate used and owned as a homestead. If filing for the first time, please present a certificate from the United States Government. Under certain circumstances the benefit of this exemption can carry over to the veteran’s spouse in the event of the veteran’s death. $500 Exemption for blind persons: Every Florida resident who is blind qualifies for this exemption on real estate used and owned as their homestead. If filing for the first time, please present at least one of the following as proof of your disability: 1.A certificate from the Division of Blind Services of the Department of Education2.The United States Department of Veterans Affairs3.The Federal Social Security Administration certifying the applicant to be “Blind person” is defined as an individual having central vision acuity 20/200 or less in the better eye with correcting glasses, or a disqualifying field defect in which the peripheral field has contracted to such an extent that the widest diameter or visual field subtends an angular distance no greater than twenty degrees.Service-connected total and permanent disability exemption: Any honourably discharged veteran with a service connected total and permanent disability can claim this exemption. Also any surviving spouses of qualifying veterans and spouses of Florida resident veterans who died from service-connected causes while on active duty as a member of the United States Armed forces are entitled to an exemption on real estate used and owned as a homestead, by the veteran, less any portion thereof used for commercial purposes. Under certain circumstances, the benefit of this exemption can carry over to the veteran’s spouse in the event of the veteran’s death.If filing for the first time, please bring one of the following:1.A certificate from the United States Government as your proof of a service-connected disability or death of your spouse while on active duty.2.United States Department of Veterans Affairs as your proof of a service-connected disability or death of your spouse while on active duty. Exemption for totally and permanently disabled persons: There are two areas that one can qualify for this exemption.1.Any real estate used and owned as a homestead, less any portion thereof used for commercial purposes by any quadriplegic, shall be exempt from taxation. 2.Any real estate used and owned as a homestead, less any portion thereof used for commercial purposes, by a paraplegic, hemiplegic or other totally and permanently disabled person, as defined in Section 196.012(11), F.S., who must use a wheelchair for mobility or who is legally blind, shall be exempt from taxation. Persons entitled to the exemption under number two (2) above, must be a permanent resident of the State of Florida as of January 1st of the year of assessment. Also, the prior year gross income of all persons residing in or upon the homestead shall not exceed the amount of income, set forth in section 196.101(4), F.S., adjusted annually by the percentage change of the average cost of living index issued by the United States Department of Labor. Gross income shall include United States Department of Veterans Affairs benefits and any social security benefits paid to the person. A statement of gross income must accompany the application. If filing for the first time, please bring a certificate from two (2) doctors licensed in the State of Florida or a certificate (per s. 196.091, F.S.) from the United States Department of Veterans Affairs.