Property tax assessment is serious business. In Florida, the specifics span from the state constitution to local regulations. Section 4, Article VII of the Florida Constitution mandates that property appraisers use the "just value" assessment method. The Florida Supreme Court has ruled that "Just Value" and "Market Value" are legally the same. Other value considerations can include investment value and going-concern value, although they must be related back to "just value" to hold water.
When appealing assessment results, wiggle room can often be found in the principles of value applied including:
- Anticipation of future benefits
- Conformity of a property to its surroundings
- Consistent use of a property
- Surplus productivity
- Contribution of components to a whole
- Value of substituting a property with one of equal utility, and
- The equilibrium between supply and demand.
Appraisers combine all of the above elements into a complex coding formula. If even one variable is overstated, the impact on your property tax payment can be significant. Other common areas of appeal include contesting market-area stratification decisions, usually on the basis of consistency, or contesting process and data analysis in cases of mass appraisal.
What is a Commercial Property Tax Appeal?
Florida property tax appeals are made before the Value Adjustment Board in the appropriate county. The adjustment board consists of 5 members, 2 from the county's board of commissioners, 1 from the school board and 2 citizens. The adjustment board makes all final decisions, but often rely on a special magistrate for expert advice, counsel, and value decisions.
How much does it cost?
Fees vary by county, but the actual process of appealing a decision usually includes only a nominal fee. You can represent yourself in the appeals process, although the greatest chances for success usually involve expert representation and private valuation data challenging the results on one or more count. The fees for this sort of service vary widely depending on the service provider and complexity of your appeal. Some services work on a contingency fee and will not charge anything unless they get you savings.
Why should I appeal?
Property tax valuations are subject to many different variables. Valuations are made as a "snapshot" of conditions on January 1st of a given year, but reality is a fluid with ebbs and flows that may be reflected in your valuation. Because this snapshot is time-sensitive, it should reflect conditions as they existed in the last calendar year. However, Florida assessment notices aren't mailed until August and current conditions may have some influence. Current conditions can be drastically different, potentially leading to savings. The appeals process is your only opportunity to get a valuation that reflects the fair market value.
What are the possible savings or benefits?
Every case is different. It is not unusual to find a double digit percentage decrease in your property tax bill. The higher the value of your property, the higher the savings. There is no guarantee of success, but many large commercial properties have saved millions of dollars.
What are the disadvantages to filing an appeal?
Time and money invested with no guarantee of success. Appeals are routine procedures and very rarely gain any attention from outside parties. There is no reason to worry about generating ill-will from public officials or the community for Florida property tax appeals.
What is the process for Florida Property Tax Appeals?
Deadlines are extremely important to the appeal process. The appeal deadline for a given property is listed in the annual Truth in Mileage Notice (TRIM) sent out in August. These deadlines are binding and cannot be extended. Appeals must be filed, not simply postmarked, by this date.