Florida’s ever-changing ad valorem property tax system has become increasingly complex and confusing to taxpayers, real estate professionals and local officials. Answers to frequently asked questions may assist in the understanding of property assessment and administration.
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;
- 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, produce 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 five 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.
The Florida Constitution was 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 change in CPI, whichever is lowest. This limitation does not apply to any change, addition or significant improvement to a homestead (excluding normal maintenance or substantially equivalent replacement). During subsequent years, these improvements will fall under the Constitutional limitation.
Two other methods are considered 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.
Besides Homestead, what other exemptions are available under law?
Details on applying for additional exemptions can be found on the Exemptions page of this website. The Exemptions page will provide you with a list of exemptions, an explanation of the exemption and required forms.
When will I know the amount of my tax bill?
Each August, the Property Appraiser sends a “Notice of Proposed Taxes,” commonly known as a TRIM Notice (Truth in Millage) to all property owners. 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 assessed 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 assessed value shown on your Notice of Proposed Taxes 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 Florida Statutes 193.461, in which the assessment is based on agricultural use value.
To qualify for Agricultural classification, an application 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.
How do I change the mailing address on my property in Walton County?
In order to change the mailing address on your property in Walton County, you will need to complete the “Address Change Request Form”. This form is found under the Forms Download tab on our homepage or you can access it by clicking here, “Address Change Request Form“. This form must have one of the property owner’s sign the form.
If I buy a property, which currently has a homestead exemption, do I get the benefit of that exemption for the remainder of the year?
If the seller had homestead exemption, the buyer may have the advantage of the seller’s homestead exemption for the remainder of the sale year. However, the “carried over” homestead exemption will be removed as of December 31st of the sale year. The new owner must apply in person by the deadline for homestead exemption to be in their name for the following year. For example, if you purchase a homesteaded home in June of 2018, you will get the benefit of the previous owner’s homestead exemption until December 31, 2018. For 2019, you must file an original homestead exemption application by March 1, 2019.
Do I have to be a citizen to qualify?
Citizenship is not a requirement to file for homestead exemption. However, an applicant who is not a U.S. citizen must prove that they have permanent residency status when they apply. Please bring your INS issued permanent residency photo ID card when filing a homestead application.
What if the property is in a trust?
The applicant must 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 a homestead exemption on a mobile home?
Yes, if you possess a mobile home Real Property (RP) decal and own the land. When applying, you must bring in the title or registration to the mobile home.
Florida homeowners may transfer all or a portion of their Save Our Homes CAP to a new homestead property. Portability is subject to numerous statutory restrictions and limitations. Once you have applied for a new Homestead Exemption you should review your options for transferring your Save Our Homes Cap.
You cannot transfer the Cap to another person except between husband and wife or to one who is legally or naturally dependent. A Designation of Ownership Shares will allow a couple, who were married at the time the former jointly owned homestead property was abandoned, to designate the percentage of CAP value each owner would transfer to the new homestead property. Once you file the designation with the property appraiser, it is irrevocable.
What is the Save Our Homes amendment?
Florida Statutes 193.155(1) 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). For example, if you add a new porch to your home in June of 2010, the porch will be added to your assessment at full value in 2011. For subsequent years, the value of the porch will be included under 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. : “For example, if you add a new porch to your home in June of 2010, the porch will be added to your assessment at full value in 2011. For subsequent years, the value of the porch will be included under the limitation.
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.
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.
Why did my market value (Just Value) decrease when my assessed value increased?
In 1992, voters approved Amendment 10 a/k/a The Save Our Homes (SOH) Amendment to the State Constitution. Prior to its 1994 effective date, Governor Chiles and his Cabinet approved implementing rule 12D8.0062 that became part of the Florida Administrative Code and later became known as The Recapture Rule. The rule requires property appraisers to annually increase assessed values on homestead properties whose market values are greater than last year’s assessed value by 3% or the Consumer Price Index (CPI), whichever is less. Therefore, if you have previously-accrued SOH benefits, your assessed value will increase even though your market value decreased.