It Happens Every August
Every August in Florida, the county property appraisers mail their annual “Truth in Millage” (“TRIM”) notices to all residential and commercial property owners. If you have been a property owner for some time, you are probably familiar with this notice that states “DO NOT PAY - THIS IS NOT A BILL”. Under Florida law, taxing authorities must provide property owners with notice of the proposed tax assessments before they become a final bill.
Property taxes can be a burden. If you’ve lived in your home for a number of years, you’ve most likely seen your property taxes climb up over the years. The same goes for those with commercial properties as well. Many of us never question whether these taxes are correctly being assessed. The good news is that if you believe your property taxes are too high, there are steps you can take to possibly get them lowered, by appealing your property tax bill.
How are Property Taxes Calculated?
Your property taxes are calculated by multiplying your home or commercial property’s assessed value by your area’s tax rate. While you can’t argue your area’s tax rate, you can take steps to prove that your real estate isn’t worth as much as your property assessor thinks it is. The assessment should reflect what your property could actually sell for in the real estate market.
What if You Disagree with the Value of Your Property?
Suppose you disagree with the property appraiser’s assessment. In that case, you can discuss the assessment with the property appraiser’s office, you can file a petition with the county value adjustment board (“VAB”) to appeal the property appraiser’s assessment, or you can do both. You may also file a lawsuit in circuit court to challenge the property appraiser’s assessment or the VAB’s decision.
What is a Value Adjustment Board (VAB)?
Each county in Florida has a VAB made up of five members; two from the county’s board of commissioners, one from the county’s school board, and two citizens. Many counties use special magistrates to conduct hearings, review property valuation and recommend decisions to the VAB. The VAB makes all final decisions.
In hearings before a VAB, you may represent yourself, seek assistance from a friend or family member, or a professional like an attorney, licensed real estate appraiser, or a CPA. If you seek assistance from someone that is not a licensed professional, you will need to sign a petition or provide written authorization or power of attorney for your representative.
Property Tax Appeal Deadlines
There is a short period of time that property owners have to petition the VAB. This is 25 days after the mailing of the TRIM notice. Note: having an informal conference with the property appraiser does not extend your deadline to file a petition with the VAB. If you miss this deadline, your only option may be to file suit in circuit court.
When Should I Appeal My Property Tax Assessment?
There are two main reasons why you should appeal your property tax assessment.
The property is overvalued compared to similar properties in your area.
Tax appraisal values are part of the public record. Many county appraisal districts include search features on their website where property owners can find the value of the homes or commercial properties around them. If your property is appraised higher than similar properties in your area, you may want to consider an appeal. If your home is significantly overvalued, appealing your property taxes could save you a substantial amount of money. On the other hand, if appealing your taxes will only save you a small amount, it may not be worth your time or hassle to appeal.
The Assessment Contains an Error
If the appraisal does not describe your property correctly, you should file an appeal to correct these errors. For example, if you own a home with three bedrooms and the tax appraisal says it has four bedrooms, you have valid grounds for an appeal.
On Your Side
Appealing a property appraiser’s assessment can be an investment. A successful challenge and the subsequent reduction in assessed value could result in tax savings for many years to come. Highly valued residential and commercial property owners have the most to gain because there is generally more room for error in the assessments.
I’m Rob Robinson, and I have over three decades of experience in commercial and residential issues, including appealing property appraiser’s assessments. I will represent you before the VAB and/or through direct appeals against the property appraiser and taxing authorities in circuit court. As a sole practitioner, I can assure you that your property tax appeal will be handled with individualized attention and care. If you feel your property is being overvalued, or you believe there are errors in the assessment, please contact my office to discuss obtaining a reduction in your tax liability.