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Understanding Florida Property Taxes

By Elizabeth R. Elstien

Florida's property tax is decided in a way that is confusing to many. It is a bit unusual in that the Sunshine State has various elected officials and one board that play a hand in valuing the property, deciding the tax rate and collecting taxes each year -- all overseen by the Florida Department of Revenue. Follow along and learn how Florida establishes, applies and collects its property tax according to its state constitution.

1. Establish fair property valuations.

Each county elects a property appraiser who, along with her/his staff, ensures a fair and accurate assessment or value of properties in the county and applies any qualified exemptions. Properties are annually appraised by January 1. Homeowners can discuss the valuation with the property appraiser's office. The county property appraiser does not send tax bills or set or collect taxes.

2. Set tax rates.

County-elected officials from various local entities -- school boards, city commissions, water districts and other county boards or special taxing districts -- set the tax or millage rates each year. These taxes go to the above-mentioned entities that assessed each tax for operating funds during the year and typically begin on October 1. Rates are the same regardless of property type and can not be above the state limit. There is no state property tax.

3. Mail property tax notices.

Notice of Proposed Property Taxes known as TRIM (Truth-in-Millage Notice) is mailed to homeowners in August by their county property appraiser. This notice includes the property valuation as well as tax rates levied by local government entities. Total property taxes are figured based on each home's valuation and local tax rates.

4. Appeal property tax notices.

The Value Adjustment Board (VAB), an independent and neutral venue, decides all appeals filed with them. The homeowner has 25 days from the TRIM mailing to file an appeals petition. It is suggested that the valuation is informally discussed with the county appraiser's office first. Two members of the county commission, one member of the school board and two citizen members comprise the elected and impartial VAB board.

5. Bill for property taxes.

In October or early November, the county tax collector mails the property tax bills to homeowners. The bills are due on March 31 the following year.

5. Collect and disburse property taxes.

The elected county tax collector collects current and delinquent property taxes as noted on the TRIM. The annual tax bill must be paid by March 31. Assessments for all local taxing authorities, which differ by county, are disbursed by the tax collector. This is how public education and other government taxing authorities get part of their annual funds.

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