Bay County VAB v. Spitzer 12/31/09
Order.12.09.1108 Ariola v. Chris Jones (warning: lengthy download)
"The New Frontier in Property Tax Challenges" by Stephen Bailey, Florida Bar Journal, July 2009 (can the seller or the buyer challenge the assessment?)
The Department of Revenue releases a report on property valuations and property tax data each year. This year's report contains values for 2007 as well as data from the past several years for comparison.
The entire 2007 Florida Property Valuations and Tax Data Book & Graphics is now available in pdf format. The book can be downloaded over the Web and viewed in your browser or in Adobe Acrobat. Download the Tax Data Book here(694 K)
Training Offered by Department of Revenue
Training Course Calendar- The Property Tax Administration course calendar---not just IAAO---all courses offered: when, where and who to contact.
DOR designation information- Information on the designations available to property appraisers and their employees through the Department of Revenue.
Course descriptions- Course descriptions of the IAAO courses offered through DOR.
Partial Exemption of Homesteads training tutorial.
Other Helpful Links
Frequently Asked Questions
What does the property appraiser do?
The property appraiser is responsible for identifying, locating, and fairly valuing all property, both real and personal, within the county for tax purposes. The "market" value of real property is based on the current real estate market. Estimating the "market" value of your property means discovering the price most people would pay for your property in its current condition. What is important to remember is that the property appraiser does not create the value. People establish the value by buying and selling real estate in the market place. The property appraiser has the legal responsibility to study those transactions and appraise your property accordingly. The property appraiser also tracks ownership changes; maintains maps of parcel boundaries; keeps descriptions of buildings and property characteristics up to date; accepts and approves applications from individuals eligible for exemptions and other forms of property tax relief; and most importantly, analyzes trends in sales prices, construction costs, and rents to best estimate the value of all assessable property.
Does the property appraiser levy or collect taxes?
No. The property appraiser assesses all property in the county and is neither a taxing authority nor a tax collector. The property appraiser has nothing to do with the amount of taxes levied or collected.
Three separate government entities each having unique and distinct roles in producing your November tax bill. First, the property appraiser annually appraises all property in your county at the market value as of January 1. Next, each taxing authority within the county sets their own millage rate based on the amount of tax dollars necessary to fund their annual budget. Finally, the tax collector takes the amount of taxes due in order to bill and collect all taxes levied within the county.
How is property appraised?
At least once every three years, the property appraiser or a staff appraiser will visit and inspect each property. However, individual property values may be adjusted between visits in light of sales activity or other factors affecting real estate values in your neighborhood. Sales of similar properties are strong indicators of value in the real estate market.
To estimate the value of a property, the property appraiser must identify the properties that have sold, their sale prices and the terms and conditions of the each sale. Each transaction must be studied to make sure that it is an arms-length transaction.
An arm's length transaction is a sale involving a willing seller and a willing buyer without any undue pressure or special incentives (such as family relationships). An arm's length transaction also means that the property was on the market for neither an excessive nor short period of time.
Once this is determined, the property appraiser can base the value of a property on sales of comparable properties. That is why property appraisers maintain an accurate data base of real estate information, and this is the sale comparison approach to value.
The Florida Constitution has been amended effective January 1, 1995 to limit any annual increase in the assessed value of residential property with a homestead exemption to 3 percent or the rate of inflation, whichever is lower. This limitation does not include any change, addition or improvement to a homestead (excluding normal maintenance or substantially equivalent replacement). During subsequent years, any improvements will fall under the Constitutional limitation.
Two other methods are used to appraise property - the cost approach and the income approach. The cost approach is based on how much it would cost today to build an almost identical structure on the parcel. If your property is not new, the appraiser must also determine how much the building has lost value over time. The appraiser must also determine the value of the land itself - without buildings or any improvements. The income approach (usually performed on commercial property) requires a study of how much revenue your property would produce if it were rented as an apartment house, a store, an office building and so on. The appraiser must consider operating expenses, taxes, insurance, maintenance costs, and the return or profit most people would expect on the type of property you own.
What is market value?
Florida Law requires that the just value of all property be determined each year. The Supreme Court of Florida has declared "just value" to be legally synonymous to "full cash value" and "fair market value." The fair market value of your property is the amount for which it could sell on the open market. The property appraiser analyzes these market transactions annually to determine fair market value as of January 1.
Can I get a tax exemption?
In addition to determining values, the property appraiser accepts applications for and administers property tax exemptions. Several types of exemptions are available.
The type of exemption benefiting the largest number of property owners is the HOMESTEAD EXEMPTION. If you own property which you use as your primary residence as of January 1, you may apply for homestead exemption. This will reduce the taxable value of your home by $25,000, resulting in substantial savings on your property taxes.
Any new exemption or change in exemption status should be filed as soon as possible, but no later than March 1.
Besides Homestead, what other exemptions are available under law?
Widow/ Widowers Exemption ($500)- To file for Widow or Widower's Exemption you must be a widow or widower prior to January 1st of the tax year and bring proof of your spouse's death. (Divorced persons do not qualify for this exemption.) Disability Exemption ($500)- In addition to proof of Florida residency, you must provide one of the following: Proof of total and permanent disability from two  professional unrelated licensed Florida physicians, the U.S. Veteran's Administration; Proof of 10% or more war-time disability from Veteran's Administration; Present proof of legal blindness. Total exemption from ad valorem taxation on homestead property for totally and permanently disabled-
Section 196.101, F.S., provides that property owners qualifying for the homestead exemption on January 1, who are quadriplegic, paraplegic, hemiplegic, or other totally and permanently disabled persons, who must use a wheel chair for mobility, or are legally blind and produce certification of that fact from two  professionally unrelated licensed Florida physicians, or the U.S. Veteran's Administration, shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation. Except for quadriplegics & Veterans, there is also a gross income limitation for this exemption, governing all persons residing upon the homestead, which is adjusted annually.
Section 196.081, F.S. , provides that property owners qualifying for the homestead exemption on January 1, who are veterans honorably discharged with a service connected total and permanent disability, shall be exempt from ad valorem taxation. Confirmation of the disability from the U.S. Veteran's Administration is required for this exemption. A surviving spouse could enjoy the benefit of this exemption if the veteran was a permanent resident of Florida on January 1 of the year he or she died.
When will I know the amount of my tax bill?
Each August, the property appraiser sends a Truth in Millage (TRIM) notice to all property owners as required by law. This notice is very important -- look for it in the mail! You'll recognize it by prominent lettering, "DO NOT PAY - This is not a bill."
The TRIM notice tells you the taxable value of your property. Taxable value is the just value less any exemptions.
The TRIM notice also gives you information on proposed millage rates and taxes as estimated by your community taxing authorities. It also tells you when and where these authorities will hold public meetings to discuss tentative budgets to set your millage tax rates.
Fees not related to your property value may also appear on your TRIM notice for garbage collection, roads, lighting and other government services. These fees are set by your taxing authority and are not affected by any change in the value of your house or property.
What if I think the appraised value of my property is too high?
If you think the taxable value shown on your TRIM Notice is not correct, you are encouraged to contact your property appraiser's office to speak with an appraiser. The appraiser can show you the information used to determine your property's value.
What is an "AG" classification?
An agricultural classification is the designation of land by the property appraiser, pursuant to F.S. 193.461, in which the assessment is based on agricultural use value.
To qualify for Agricultural classification, a return must be filed with the property appraiser between January 1 and March 1 of the tax year. Only lands which are used for bona fide agricultural purposes shall be classified agricultural.
"Bona fide agricultural purposes" means good faith commercial agricultural use of the land. The property appraiser, prior to classifying such lands, may require the taxpayer or the taxpayer's representative to furnish such information as may reasonably be required to establish such lands are actually used for a bona fide agricultural purpose.
The property appraiser may deny agricultural classification to the following lands:
Lands which are not being used for or diverted from agricultural use; Land that has been zoned non-agricultural at the request of the owner; Land on which a sub-division plat is recorded; Land which is purchased for a price three or more times the agricultural appraisal placed on the land.
Homestead Exemption Information
What do I need to do?
All persons seeking homestead exemption must complete an original application (Form DR-501). The application must be signed and filed in person.
Where can I file?
You can file at the property appraiser's office.
What information do I need to bring with me?
A recorded deed or tax bill in your name. Social Security numbers for all owners. The following information to establish proof of residency for all owners who occupy the property must be presented in-person at our office: Florida driver's license, if you drive or if a non-driver, a declaration of domicile recorded prior to January 1; Florida auto tag registration, if you drive Florida voter registration card, if you are registered to vote.
If you do not possess these items, please call the property appraiser for further information.
When do I apply?
The normal filing time for homestead exemption begins on January 1 and lasts through March 1. All exemption applications for that year must be filed by March 1. You may pre-file for the following year from March 2 through December 31.
Failure to apply on or before March 1, according to law, is a waiver of the exemption privilege for that year.
Do I have to be a citizen to qualify?
Citizenship is not required to file for homestead exemption. An applicant who is not a U.S. citizen must present a resident alien card (green card) when they apply.
What if the property is in trust?
In these cases, it is necessary for the applicant to furnish this office with a copy of the trust agreement. Florida law specifies those situations under which the resident may obtain homestead exemption. The Florida Constitution requires that the homestead claimant have legal title or beneficial title in equity to the property.
Can I get homestead exemption on a mobile home?
Yes, you may if you own the land on which the mobile home is located. When applying, you must bring in the title or registration to the mobile home.
Is there any appeal if I miss the deadline for filing?
Yes. You must file an appeal with the Value Adjustment Board and a late application for homestead exemption at the property appraiser's office in person. The deadline for filing is set by law -- on or before the 25th day following the mailing of the notice of proposed property taxes (T.R.I.M. notice). This date usually falls in early September. You may call your property appraiser's office to confirm the deadline date.
Approval or denial of the late application is determined by the Value Adjustment Board. This panel will hear your reasons for not filing in a timely manner and make a determination whether or not your application can be approved for that tax year.
Tangible Personal Property
What is "tangible personal property"?
Tangible personal property (TPP) is defined in Section 192.001, F.S. as "all goods, chattels and other articles of value (but does not include...vehicular items...) capable of manual possession and whose chief value is intrinsic to the article itself." TPP is everything other than real estate that has value by itself and includes such things as furniture, fixtures, tools, machinery, household appliances, signs, equipment, leasehold improvements, supplies, leased equipment and any other equipment used in a business or to earn income. It does not include motor vehicles, mobile homes, inventory, livestock, boats or airplanes.
Who must file a personal property return?
Anyone in possession of assets on January 1 who has either a proprietorship, partnership, corporation or is a self-employed agent or contractor, must file each year. Property owners who lease, lend or rent property must also file a return.
Why do I have to file?
Section 193.052, Florida Statutes, requires that all tangible personal property be reported each year to the Property Appraiser's office. Failure to submit receive a personal property tax return the property appraiser does not relieve you of your obligation to file.
What If I have no assets to report?
Even if you feel you have nothing to report, complete the return form, attach an explanation about why nothing was reported, and file it with the property appraiser's office. Almost all businesses and rental units have some assets to report, even if it is only supplies, rented equipment, or household goods.
If I am no longer in business, should I still file?
Yes. If you were in business on January 1 of the tax year, indicate the date you went out of business, the manner in which you disposed of your business assets and the name and address of the recipient of the assets on your return. If you still have the assets, you must file on these items. Sign and date the return and file it with the property appraiser's office.
What if I have old equipment that has been fully depreciated and written off the books?
Whether fully depreciated in your accounting records or not, all property still in use or in your possession should be reported.
Important Dates To Remember
- Date of assessment
- Personal property returns due to property appraiser
January 1 to March 1
- Widow, widower and disability applications taken for tangible mobile home improvements (You must reside on the property as of January 1 of the tax year to qualify!)
- Filing deadline for personal property returns to avoid penalties
- Notices of proposed property tax mailed (also called "TRIM" or Truth in Millage)
- Deadline to file Value Adjustment Board petition
- Tax bills sent by the County Finance Department.
Do I have to report assets that I lease, loan, rent, borrow or are provided as part of the rent?
Yes. There is an area on the return specifically for those assets. Even though the assets are assessed to the owner, they must be listed for informational purposes.
Is there a minimum value that I do not have to report?
No. There is no minimum value. A personal property tax return must be filed on all assets by April 1. However, if the resulting property taxes amount to less than $5.00, you will not receive a tax bill.
What are the deadlines and penalties for filing?
The deadline for filing a timely return is April 1. After that date, state law provides that penalties be applied at 5% per month or portion of a month that the return is late., up to a maximum of 25% penalty when no return is filed.
If I buy or sell an existing business during the year, who is responsible for the taxes?
The new owner is responsible. However, if there is insufficient property to satisfy the taxes due, on January 1 the new owner will be responsible for the difference. Most title companies do not do a search of the tangible assets of a business, therefore, you should consult your broker, attorney or closing agent to insure your proper protection.
What is an "office" or "field review" assessment?
When a tax return is not filed by April 1, the property appraiser is required to place an assessment on the property. This assessment represents an estimate based upon the value of businesses with similar equipment and assets. Being assessed does not alleviate you of your responsibility to file an accurate return.
What if I don't agree with the assessed value that appears on my notice of proposed property tax?
In mid-August, the owner of record will receive a notice of proposed property tax covering TPP. If you disagree with your assessment, call your property appraiser or go to the office to discuss the matter. If you have evidence that the appraised value is more than the actual fair market value of your property, the property appraiser will welcome the opportunity to review all the pertinent facts. If you do not agree after talking, then you may file a petition to have the matter reviewed by the Value Adjustment Board, an independent reviewing authority. Should you not agree with the VAB, then you may file suit to have the assessment reviewed in court.
Helpful Hints And Suggestions
- File the original return from this office as soon as possible before April 1. Be sure to sign and date your return.
- Work with your accountant or C.P.A. to identify any equipment that may have been "physically removed." List those items in the appropriate space on your return.
- If you have an asset listing or depreciation schedule that identifies each item of equipment, attach it to the completed return.
- Do not use vague terms such as "various" or "same as last year."
- It is to your advantage to provide a breakdown of assets since depreciation on each item may vary.
- Please include your estimate of fair market value and the original cost of the item on your return. These are important considerations in determining an accurate assessment.
- Look for additional information concerning filing within the instructional section of the return itself.
- If you sell your business, go out of business, or move to a new location, please inform your property appraiser office promptly. This helps to ensure timely, accurate records.
Amendment 10 "Save Our Homes" Value Cap
What is the Save Our Homes amendment?
Section 193.155(1) of the Florida Statutes was enacted to implement an amendment to the state constitution to limit annual increases in property value assessments on real property qualifying for and receiving homestead exemption.
How does the amendment limitation apply?
Real property shall be assessed at full market value (just value) as of January 1 of the year in which the property first receives the homestead exemption. The following year the property is reassessed and any changes from the prior year's assessed value is not to exceed the lesser of 3% of that prior year assessed value or the Consumer Price Index percentage change, (except capital improvements, additions or improvements).
How is my property affected?
The year following the granting of homestead exemption, the property is subject to the limitation.
What about any changes, additions or improvements to the homestead property?
New construction or additions shall be assessed at full market value as of the first January 1 after the changes are substantially completed. In these circumstances, it is possible that the assessed value may exceed the amendment limitations. However; after the first year that the changes are assessed at full market value, they are also subject to the amendment limitations.
What properties are not subject to the limitation?
Residences without homestead, non-residential property, vacant land, tangible personal property, commercial property, and agricultural property are not eligible for the amendment limitation.
Why would my assessment increase when my market value stayed the same?
This is probably due to the "recapture" rule. In 1995, the Department of Revenue adopted a rule, approved by the Governor and Cabinet, directing property appraisers to raise the assessed value of a qualifying homestead property by the maximum of 3% or the Consumer Price Index, whichever is less, on all properties assessed at less than full market value (just value).
What happens if a property is sold or conveyed to a new owner?
Once the property has been conveyed to the new owner (and the homestead exemption is interrupted), it is raised to full market value (just value) January 1 of the following year. The new owner must qualify and apply to receive homestead exemption. Even if the property received a homestead exemption under the previous owner, the limitation, just like the exemption, expires January 1 of the year following a change of ownership.