Deadline Approaching: Don’t Overpay on 2016 Property Taxes

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As a Florida homeowner, you should have received documents recently—the Notice of Proposed Property Taxes (or TRIM, “Truth in Millage”)—to inform you of how much you’ll owe in property taxes for the next year. It’s not the most welcomed piece of mail, to be sure, but it’s one that you definitely need to take the time to consider. As its title suggests, this is just a proposal, and you have the opportunity to challenge any of the information on the notice if you act before September 19.

This date is the last where you can file a petition with your local Value Adjustment Board to change information on your TRIM. Every county in Florida has a VAB that works to address alleged inconsistencies on property values. If you wish to file a petition for a hearing with your VAB, you can find the necessary form here.

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The major reason why you may want to consider filing a petition with your VAB is because the assessment of your property’s value seems to be off. Sometimes it pays to have your home overvalued, such as if you’re looking to sell it soon. Otherwise, having the government overestimating a property’s value is a pain for your wallet.

Florida’s property tax rates differ from county to county, however they’re all based around the value of your home. For example, in Broward County, the average property tax rate is 1.336 percent. Therefore someone living in a $200,000 home will pay $2,672 in property taxes. But what if the local property appraiser estimates your home to be worth $250,000? That means you’ll be paying $3,340 taxes.

Saving nearly $800 a year is well worth filing a petition. However, it’s important to consider what the ultimate value for you in particular is before seeking an appeal. There is a significant amount of work, and maybe cost, that goes into questioning the county’s assessment of your property.

The smallest of these expenses is the filing fee that comes with filing a petition. VAB’s may charge up to $15 for this service.

If you’re not sure whether filing a petition is the best move, you can also request a conference with the property appraiser if you disagree with their assessment of your property, or you can request a hearing before the VAB. You may represent yourself, as in a court of law, but sometimes it’s best to have an attorney, a licensed appraiser or broker representing you. This will, of course, cost you as well.

Make sure you consider the problem in the long run, however. Although your savings this year might not cover the cost of an attorney, your savings across a decade—because the improper valuation will likely return in years to come—as a result of the appeal may make the investment worthwhile.

If you decide to fill out a petition, make sure that you fill out every question requested. Ignoring or leaving just one question blank may be enough to have it thrown out by the VAB.

Once you’ve submitted your petition, you’ll be assigned a date, time and location for your hearing.

You’ll be required, 15 days prior to your hearing, to present a list of evidence and documentation that you plan on presenting at your hearing to the appraiser. Having firm proof for your complaint is essential in filing a petition. Although VABs are reasonable in the face of a strong case, the lack of documented evidence whatsoever will almost assuredly doom your cause. This is where having professional representation can be a boon; real estate attorneys know where to find the documents you’ll need, and private appraisers can provide legitimate counterclaims to the existing assessment.

Again, if you want to challenge the claims made on your TRIM, you need to act soon. The deadline for submitting petitions is September 19.