No one likes paying property taxes. They’re a necessary evil, and they’ve been providing funding for local schools and governments since the 1950s. Although you can’t entirely get out of property taxes, there are some ways that you might be able to reduce how much you pay if you’re willing to invest a little effort. In Florida, the average property owner pays about $1,700 or $1,800 in property taxes each year.
Depending on what county you live in and what your property values are, you may pay more or less in annual taxes. Regardless, you can take a proactive approach and take a few basic steps to potentially save hundreds of dollars a year. If you don’t want to do this on your own, you can hire professionals to help you every step of the way.
- Look at Your Real Property Information: The state of Florida requires all counties to keep records of all properties. This record includes everything from land values to property sketches, sales information, and more. Even the slightest detail on this record could inadvertently affect your tax assessment values. Look over your property card carefully and check for any errors or omissions that need to be resolved. While you’re at it, get a copy of your property tax card from the assessor and check that for errors, as well.
- Spy On Your Neighbors: You don’t have to go peeking in the windows when they aren’t home or go door-to-door asking how much everyone is paying in property taxes. Just log onto your local county records website and look up the property information for homes similar to yours in size and age. That will give you a better idea of if your home was fairly assessed or not.
- Use Your Own Appraisal: Whether you’ve recently had an appraisal done by an independent contractor or you wish to have one done to confirm the property information that is on record, this is a great way to get the facts straight. Assessors utilize a system known as “mass appraisal”, where they value groups of similar homes based on statistics and data. Therefore, they aren’t getting all the details that an appraisal would provide. If you can provide proof in your independent appraisal that something in the property record is wrong, you can file an appeal for a correction.
- Ask the Tax Office: It never hurts to ask. These people aren’t here to take your money and leave you hanging. If there is something that they can do to help you appeal your tax assessment, they usually will. There, of course, will be plenty of forms and procedures to follow since it is a government agency, but they should also be able to help you along the way. You can inquire about the appeals process, what items you can and can’t appeal, and how to report any discrepancies in property records to the county auditor or other related parties.
- Hire a Third-Party Evaluator or Attorney: You can do the work yourself, and a lot of people have been successful in reducing their own taxes using tips like the ones discussed here. However, if you want the best chances of success or simply don’t have the time or understanding of the property tax system to do the work yourself, you can hire someone to do it for you. There are plenty of companies that are in business for this exact purpose, and they can handle every aspect of the appeals process on your behalf.
- Look Into Available Tax Breaks: Most people have already applied necessary tax reductions, but it doesn’t hurt to look and see what is out there. Tax exemptions vary by state, but Florida offers tax reductions for:
- Homestead Exemption
- Active Duty Military
- Seniors (65 and older)
- Surviving spouses of first responders
- And others
What is a Homestead Exemption?
If you own a property and make it a permanent residence for yourself or your dependents, you may be able to file for the homestead exemption. This can decrease the taxable value of your property by up to $50,000, depending on the specifics of your situation. The state of Florida offers an informational guide that can provide more detail on this process and the exemption rules.
With this additional exemption, here are some examples of how your taxable value can be reduced significantly:
- Assessed Value: $100,000
- The first $25,000 is exempt from ALL property taxes. The next $25,000 can be taxed. The third $25,000 of the assessed value is only exempt from non-school tax. The final $25,000 remains taxable. That means that your property will be taxed completely at a value of $50,000 and that an additional $25,000 of the property value will only be partially taxed.
- The first $25,000 is exempt from ALL property taxes. The next $25,000 can be taxed. Therefore, your tax assessment will be based on a tax value of $25,000 instead of $50,000.
- Assessed Value: $50,000
Act Quickly for Current Year Savings
For the most part, there are going to be very few situations where you will ever get a refund for any past year tax assessment errors. If it can be proven that a major error was made, however, you will have your property tax adjusted and capped for three years. The best way to ensure that you don’t lose money overpaying on your property taxes is to pay attention to your assessments and file an appeal as soon as you realize there might be an issue.
At Fair Assessments, LLC, we take pride in helping people pay only what they should for their property taxes. We can assist you at any step in the process, or through every step of the process, no matter what errors or exemptions you might be dealing with. The tax assessment system isn’t perfect, but if you are proactive and willing to put in a little effort, you can often have a chance to pay at least a little less.