tax.jpgWith Florida’s 2017 Regular Session officially adjourned on May 8, 2017, only 203 bills (of the total 1,606 general bills filed) survived both chambers of the Legislature.

From the handful of legislation that ultimately passed this year, Joint Resolution CS/HJR 21 was enacted. This resolution proposes an amendment to the State’s Constitution that would limit a local government’s authority to assess non-homestead real property for purposes of ad valorem taxation.

Background

Under Florida’s Constitution, ad valorem taxation is expressly reserved to local governments. The state is prohibited from levying ad valorem taxes on real and tangible personal property.

When preparing an annual assessment, the State Constitution also generally requires that all property be assessed at just value (i.e., market value) on January 1st of each year. Thereafter, such assessments are used to calculate property taxes to fund counties, municipalities, district school boards and certain special districts.

Florida’s Existing Limitations on Assessments for Non-Homestead Property

Continue Reading Florida Voters to Consider Permanent Cap on Annual Non-Homestead Property Tax Assessments

matthewsimmons1As Co-Chair of the Lee County Bar Association’s Land Use and Governmental Law Section, I recently had the privilege of sitting down with Matt Simmons, State-Certified Residential Real Estate Appraiser and partner at Maxwell Hendry & Simmons, after he spoke at our group’s July luncheon. Matt shared so much valuable information with us (no pun intended) that I hoped to capture some of that knowledge to share here. Given the importance of the real estate market to our community, it is nearly impossible to distill the wealth of data Matt and his firm have in a short blog. But, it’s always fun to try!

Q: You have great data to share, and you mentioned that often the data can be skewed if viewed in isolation. What do you see as the most misunderstood information reflecting the SWFL market?

Continue Reading Insight into the SWFL Real Estate Market: Q&A with Matt Simmons

This year, on two separate election days, Florida voters had — and will have — the opportunity to vote on two different constitutional amendments.

(Editor’s Note: At press time, the August 30th primary had yet to occur. However, it has since been reported that Amendment 4 was approved by nearly 73 percent of Florida voters at the primary, thus the measure will take effect on January 1, 2018, and expire on December 31, 2037.)

Amendment 4: Florida Tax Exemptions for Renewable Energy Measure

By way of background, the Florida Constitution currently provides for local government ad valorem taxes on real property and tangible personal property, assessment of property for tax purposes, and exemptions to these taxes. Section 4(i) in Article VII of the Florida Constitution also provides that the legislature may prohibit the consideration of the installation of a renewable energy source device in the determination of the assessed value of real property used for residential purposes.

Continue Reading Solar Energy is Hot on Florida Ballots in 2016

11745456_10204830522498328_4583304138522897113_n(1)In City of Fort Pierce v. Treasure Coast Marina, LC, No. 4D14-3064, 2016 WL 3087680 (Fla. 4th DCA May 31, 2016), the Fourth District Court of Appeal addressed whether a marina that was owned and operated by a municipality should qualify as a traditionally exempt “municipal or public purpose” for ad valorem tax exemption purposes under Article VII, Section 3(a) of the Florida Constitution.

A Brief Look at Florida’s Constitutional Ad Valorem Tax Exemption for “Municipal or Public Purposes”

According to Article VII, Section 3(a) of Florida’s Constitution, “[a]ll property owned by a municipality and used exclusively by it for municipal or public purposes shall be exempt from taxation.”

Continue Reading Privately-Owned Marinas Are Not Exempt from Ad Valorem Taxation in Florida, but what About City-Owned Marinas?

tax.jpgAs a property owner in Florida, you have a right to appeal the property appraiser’s assessment of your property’s value, a denial of your application for an exemption (homestead, veterans, or senior citizen), a portability denial, and a denial of your application for property classification such as agricultural or historic. For a few “Helpful Tips for Reviewing your TRIM Notice”, please click here.

Typically, once a taxpayer decides to bring a challenge based on any of the above-mentioned grounds, a request for an informal conference will be made with the County’s property appraiser to discuss the value or to discuss the denial of an application for a property exemption or classification. Following an informal conference, in the event that the issues cannot be favorably settled, taxpayers (or their representatives) can file a petition with the local Value Adjustment Board (VAB). Alternatively, Florida law allows taxpayers to bring such challenges in circuit court.

Appeals to the Value Adjustment Board (VAB)

Continue Reading Know Your Rights as a Property Owner in Florida Before Opening your TRIM Notice for 2016

tax burdenThose owning real property in Lee County have likely received their annual TRIM (Truth in Millage) Notice. From my experience of practicing in this area of the law, I have found that some questions continue to repeat every year once taxpayers receive their TRIM Notices.

To help taxpayers understand what the TRIM means for them, I thought it would be helpful to go through a few quick tips for what to look for when reviewing this important document: Continue Reading Helpful Tips for Reviewing your TRIM Notice

SanibelLiving and practicing on Sanibel, I have many clients who come to us when they purchase a condominium or home for investment income. One of the questions that often arises is whether they should hold their investment real estate in a separate legal entity for tax and liability purposes.

Our recommendation for most clients is that they should consider the formation of a Florida limited liability company (LLC). A Florida limited liability company offers the liability protections most often associated with a corporation, while have the tax attributes of holding the property in your individual name.

In an LLC, each owner holds a “membership” interest, often described as “units” or “percentages” that define their individual ownership, much in the way that a corporation is owned by shares of stock. The LLC should have an Operating Agreement setting forth the terms and conditions (think of them as “rules”) of ownership. There are many options in deciding what should go into an Operating Agreement. You should discuss these options with your attorney when creating the LLC.

Protections of an LLC

Continue Reading Should I Form an LLC for My Beach Rental?

tax.jpgIn the past few months, several clients have contacted me with questions regarding property that had been obtained through tax deeds. For example, one client contacted me to discuss property that had been purchased from an individual who obtained the property through a tax deed sale two years earlier. At the recent purchase, the client had obtained an owner’s title policy; however, there was an exception to this policy for anyone claiming by, through or under the prior owner whose title to the property had been disgorged by the tax deed sale. My client intended to develop the property into a multi-unit residential complex and wanted to be certain that they could provide clear title to the eventual third-party purchasers.

Background

Prior to a property being sold at auction via a tax sale, several things must have occurred or, in some cases, not occurred. By way of example, let’s say that “Adam” is an individual who owns a 10 acre tract of vacant land in Lee County, Florida. After the 2008 real estate crash, Adam fell on hard times and failed to pay the 2008 ad valorem taxes due and payable on March 1, 2009. On April 1, 2009, the taxes for Adam’s property were deemed delinquent and the tax collector, as required by law, advertised Adam’s property (along with other delinquent properties) once a week for three consecutive weeks for the sale of a tax certificate on the delinquent 2008 taxes. Once the delinquent properties had been properly advertised, the tax collector established an on-line auction for a tax certificate for the delinquent 2008 taxes.

Continue Reading Tips for Understanding Tax Deeds and Tax Certificates

Property Tax.JPGIn prior posts, I mentioned the basic timing of the property tax system in Florida. As a reminder, important dates to keep in mind are:

  • January 1: all property in the State must be assessed based on its condition on that particular date (I like to call this the “snapshot photo” date);
  • March 1: the general deadline to submit exemption applications;
  • July 1: local property appraisers generally have their values determined;
  • Mid-August: TRIM notices are mailed to inform property owners of their proposed assessment and tax bill for that year;
  • September: 25 days from the date of mailing the TRIMs, the appeal period expires if you want to appeal through the Value Adjustment Board; and,
  • November: taxes can be paid for the greatest discount. 

Which begs the question, what can I do now if I’m thinking about my property taxes but haven’t paid attention to these dates? Here are 5 quick things you can be doing:

Continue Reading 5 Things You Can Do Now to Prepare for 2012 Property Taxes

George Wheeler is a 30 year employee with the Florida Department of Revenue. He currently serves as IDP Administrator in Classified Use Administration. His responsibilities as Senior Appraiser at DOR include the areas of agriculture/greenbelt, conservation, and working waterfront.

Since my recent article in the Florida Land Development News about property taxation and potential exemptions, I have received numerous questions about the treatment of conservation lands for ad valorem taxation. I first ran into this issue some time ago, and had the pleasure of working with George Wheeler with the Florida Department of Revenue to determine the best option for the landowner in that case. For this blog post, I imposed on George again and he was kind enough to chat with me about this rather  misunderstood area of property taxation.

Continue Reading Thoughts on Ad Valorem Assessment of Conservation Lands: A Conversation with George Wheeler