If you live in Florida and own property, you will receive a TRIM (Truth in Millage) notice in the next 4 to 6 weeks. This notice will give you an estimate of the real estate taxes that the property must pay, based on the assessment and millage rate. The assessment is established each year by the County Property Appraiser using mass appraisal techniques. The millage rate is based on funds the city and county government need to operate. The real estate taxes for a property is then calculated by multiplying the assessment – say $100,000 times the millage rate of say 19 mills, which is really 1.9% or .019. This equals a tax of $1,900. I sometimes think that the use of the term millage rate is to confuse the taxpayer. It would be much clearer if it was expressed as a percentage of value.
As a taxpayer, you are only obligated to pay your fair share and the only part of the real estate tax equation which can be appealed is the assessment. For non-homestead property, the tax year of 2008 is very important because the Florida Constitution was changed to limit the increase in the assessment from year to year. The following is an extract of the new assessment procedure for non-homestead property.
Assessments of non-homestead property shall be changed annually on the date of assessment provided by law; but those changes in assessments shall not exceed ten percent (10%) of the assessment for the prior year. …. such property shall be assessed at just value as of the next assessment date after a qualifying improvement …such property shall be assessed at just value as of the next assessment date after a change of ownership or control and …changes, additions, reductions, or improvements to such property shall be assessed as provided for by general law….
There are serious unintended consequences of this amendment. For example, over time – as the difference between the assessed value and the just value increases – fewer and fewer property owners will be motivated to sell and fewer buyers will be interested in buying because of the impact of the increase in assessment and taxes after a sale. The next problem will be the lack of motive to upgrade, change or improve property because again, this will cause a re-assessment of the property. However, this is the Florida Constitution and unless it changes, you should take advantage of these benefits.
With the general decline in real estate values from land, condos, single family homes to income properties, the year 2008 is the best opportunity to lock in the low valuations so that in future years as the real estate market improves, your assessment and real estate taxes will be at a minimum.
After you receive the TRIM notice, there is usually a period of 25 days to file an appeal petition if you wish to protest the assessment. Then, sometime in the next 12 months there will be a hearing before a Special Magistrate to protest the assessment. As a property owner, you can file the appeal and present your arguments before the Special Magistrate. However, many property owners have found that using a professional is much more effective.
With our 30 plus years of combined knowledge of South Florida real estate valuations as estate brokers, professional appraiser, teacher and economic analysts, we are well equipped to represent property owners in the successful appeal of real estate tax assessments.
CALL US — WE CAN MAKE SURE THAT YOU ARE ONLY PAYING YOUR FAIR SHARE OF REAL ESTATE TAXES.