Did You Receive Your Property Tax Bill?
Did you just get a jolt of reality when your property tax bill came? Owners and managers of commercial properties and also high end residences have noticed a marked uptick in property values. That has raised most all tax bills because such ad valorem taxes are based on the property’s value. Most everyone is glad our real estate market is back on the upswing. However, most people are not thrilled to see their property tax bill jump back up. So, what do you do if you think the assessment and bill is wrong?
Florida is one of the few states that reassesses property each year. The assessment is supposed to mirror true market value as of January 1 of each year. So, an owner should know what value has been placed on the property and react quickly to tax notices showing each year’s assessment. That notice, called the TRIM notice, comes each August. One should understand these key features of the property tax process. If you do not like the tax RATE, it is set by the county commission, so your remedy is within the political process. If you think the ASSESSED VALUE is too high and exceeds market value as of January 1, 2014, that is something you can do something about by working with the local assessor or through two different channels of appeal.
The administrative appeal process deadline has already passed for 2014; it falls a short time after the August TRIM notices. This is called the Value Adjustment Board Appeal or VAB process for short. If you timely commenced a VAB appeal, your parcel may still be pending as I write this article in early November. For those that didn’t act quickly enough to participate in the simpler VAB process or who are dissatisfied with the results of the VAB process, all is not lost.
Owners that have real evidence that their assessment is too high for 2014 still have an option of appealing in a circuit court lawsuit. This process has its own set of deadlines and requirements that are rigid and short. For filing such a court action, parties generally have 60 days from when a final VAB decision is reached (if you timely started a VAB appeal) or 60 days after certification of the county tax roll. The certification dates vary between counties, but usually occur in October. This makes the final deadline fall in December for most counties1. This often leaves owners either rushing to the courthouse during an already too busy December or throwing their hands up in despair. In almost every circumstance, if you miss the deadlines, the property is saddled with the erroneous and excessive assessment for another entire year before the next chance to seek correction arises.
As they say, “if you snooze, you lose”. Failure to timely appeal an excessive assessment (or correct an exemption issue) will mean you are stuck with the value and the resulting excessive tax for at least another year. We encourage you to be alert to your tax bill now. There are even statutory caps that may apply to hold down increases in property taxes from year to year, but many folks do not understand how and when they apply. We at Johnson Pope are here to guide you through the assessment appeal process and help you save on this unavoidable, but controllable tax burden.
1 See the attached link for a chart showing the deadlines in many Florida Counties for 2014.