In my household, a letter from the county property appraiser or the county tax collector is typically met with a “what-now” groan because it’s rare for good news to come from those offices. If you’re an agricultural land owner, you may have recently received such a letter from your local property appraiser notifying you that your agricultural tax classification for the 2011 tax year has been denied. And while a groan may be the proper response, tossing this letter in a pile and ignoring it is not – because you now only have 30 days to appeal this denial to the county’s Value Adjustment Board.

An agricultural classification can save a property owner tens of thousands of dollars in property tax owed to the local government, and according to the Lee County Property Appraiser’s Agricultural Division, agricultural classification denials for Lee County were mailed on or about June 27, 2011. Typically, the rationale for denial is that the property is not being “used primarily for bona fide agricultural purposes” as required by F.S. 193.461(3)(b). Any appeal of this determination must be timely filed, and evidence and testimony must be presented at a hearing to support the contention that a bona fide agricultural use existed on the property as of January 1, 2011. The statute sets forth 7 factors to be considered in determining whether a “good faith commercial use of the land” was in place:

  1. The length of time the land has been so used.
  2. Whether the use has been continuous.
  3. The purchase price paid.
  4. Size, as it relates to specific agricultural use, but a minimum acreage may not be required for agricultural assessment.
  5. Whether an indicated effort has been made to care sufficiently and adequately for the land in accordance with accepted commercial agricultural practices, including, without limitation, fertilizing, liming, tilling, mowing, reforesting, and other accepted agricultural practices.
  6. Whether the land is under lease and, if so, the effective length, terms, and conditions of the lease.
  7. Such other factors as may become applicable.

These appeals can become extremely complicated, and without the presentation of competent, relevant evidence and testimony, a property owner’s chances of success can be very low. So, if you tossed that denial letter in a “to-do” pile, dig it out and consider whether you would like to appeal the denial. The filing fee to appeal the denial is as low as $15, however waiting too long to address the issue can be quite costly.