Property taxes, after being down or flat since the recession, are expected to go up in most Florida counties this year. These are ad valorem taxes, so they are based on the value assigned to a parcel by the local assessor. Every August, property owners or managers should be on the lookout for your annual assessment notices. These are mailed out by the official property appraiser for each county. This form is called the TRIM (Truth in Millage) notice. The importance of the TRIM notice cannot be understated. The notice says in bold print “This is Not a Tax Bill”, so unfortunately many people fail to give it proper attention.
No one likes to think about taxes, so it is easy to ignore this important paper. Examine your TRIM notice immediately and carefully; being proactive remains key. The TRIM Notice shows several things: the assessed value that has been assigned to a given parcel; what your assessment was last year; what your taxes will be if rates stay the same; and exemptions or capped values that apply to the property. You should closely review this notice to determine if you think anything is wrong about the value placed on your property, and to see if exemptions or caps are properly applied. If you see anything out of order, you must take prompt action or your chance to make a reduction or correction will likely be lost for that tax year.
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. There are rigid deadlines for taking action if you believe your property has been assessed too high or an exemption improperly denied. If you choose to appeal the value through the administrative stage you must file a petition with the Value Adjustment Board (“VAB”) in the county where the property is located within 25 days of the TRIM Notice. This deadline differs slightly from county to county but is shown on the bottom of the TRIM Notice in very small print.
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 still have an option of appealing in a circuit court lawsuit. This process has its own set of deadlines and requirements and again they are rigid, short and often complicated. Parties generally have 60 days from when a final VAB decision is reached or after certification of the county tax roll to file a circuit court action. We encourage you to be alert to your tax notices now. 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.