The property tax game has changed dramatically since I became the Lee County Property Appraiser’s attorney in 1994 and since I founded TaxCuts1 in 2003. This year is no different. The “wheels of change” are ever in motion and here is a sketch of what I am seeing:
- Assessment caps have reduced the number of property tax appeals. The 3% “Save Our Homes” assessment cap was initiated in 1993. The 10% non-homestead property assessment limitation was voted in 2008. These limitations have shielded property owners from the massive annual increases that they were once subject to and as a result, the number of annual property tax appeals has greatly dropped.
- New multi-family development is often the highest & best use now on main thoroughfares. Retail or offices once dominated high visibility locations – not so much anymore. Just look at new apartment complexes that have sprung up on Six Mile Cypress by Home Depot, on US 41 near Alico and on Metro between Daniels and Six Mile Cypress. Apartments are the hottest commercial strata.
- July 1 – August 15 informal meetings with property appraiser are key. 2016 Value Adjustment Board appeal results confirm again what I have been saying for years: the best property tax strategy is to talk with property appraiser personnel after the July 1 tax roll is sent to the Department of Revenue and before the TRIM notices are mailed around August 15. Statistically, an owner’s chances of resolving an assessment during this time frame far exceed those of disputes that go to administrative hearings.
- Don’t go it alone. With the exception of certain real estate professionals, property owners should seek experienced counsel in reviewing their property tax assessments, at least if the owners’ initial informal discussions with the property appraiser are unfruitful.
- Don’t wait until November when you receive your tax bill to scrutinize your property tax assessment. Most owners make this mistake. By November your only viable option is a circuit court property tax lawsuit, which is rarely cost effective. Watch for your TRIM notice in mid to late August and take prompt action within the 25 day petition filing window.
- FL Constitutional Amendments on 2018 ballots.The Florida Legislature approved for the November, 2018 ballot two important property tax related constitutional amendments. One is an additional $25,000 homestead exemption (except for school tax millage) on top of the existing $50,000 exemption. The second amendment is an extension of the 10% non-homestead cap which is scheduled to sunset in 2019. Retaining this 10% cap should be important to commercial real estate owners and practitioners and its passage is by no means a given. Voters will have the opportunity to approve these amendments with a 60% threshold requirement.
By Michael S. Hagen, TaxCuts1
(Michael S. Hagen is a Fort Myers-based property tax/real estate attorney and owner/broker of TaxCuts 1, Inc., a property tax consulting firm. Hagen was counsel to the Lee County Property Appraiser for 10 years and, since 2003, he has represented property owners across Southwest Florida in valuation and exemption appeals. For more information, please call (239) 275-0808, e-mail Hagen at Info@MikeHagen.com or visit TaxCuts1.com and MikeHagen.com.)
Hagen Law Firm is pleased to provide customized advice to parties in property tax appeal and real estate transaction scenarios.