If you are a Homeowner in Florida pay CLOSE attention to your mail starting the second week of August every year!
Every homeowner in Florida receives a letter from their county property appraiser about the second week of August. This letter is called a Truth in Millage Rate (TRIM) notice, and it is required by law to be sent to you. Although it may seem like just another boring piece of mail that you are tempted to throw away, YOU SHOULD PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO WHAT IT SAYS.
The main purpose of the TRIM notice is to officially tell you what the Property Appraiser came up with as a Market Value (sometimes called a “Just Value”) for your property as of January 1st of that year. The “Market Value” of your property is VERY important. The first time it is determined, which happens on the January 1st AFTER you have purchased your property, the Market Value is used to determine the initial basis of your tax bill! After that, if you file for Homestead the Market Value determines the amount of “Portability” that you have accrued. You care about Portability because if you move to another home in Florida you can take your Portability with you and it will lower the tax bill on your NEXT Florida home. Portability basically allows you to move from one home in Florida to another home of similar value in Florida with no increase in your tax bill. It’s a very valuable feature of Florida’s “Homestead” related property tax laws, but unfortunately it is a bit complicated and often is misunderstood or forgotten.
Here’s basically how it works. You want your Market Value to be as LOW as possible on the FIRST time that it is determined by the Property Appraiser (which as we mentioned above happens on Jan. 1 after you purchase your property) and then you want your Market Value in subsequent years to be as HIGH as possible! We know that this sounds weird, but if you want to save money on your property tax bill that’s the way that it is. The reason is “Portability”. If you are going to live in your home forever and never move then you don’t care about Portability. BUT- if you think that there is a chance that you may move to another home in Florida in the future then Portability becomes very important. The easiest way to explain it is that in Florida when you buy a home and file Homestead on it the value on which you pay taxes (the “Assessed Value”) is locked down and can’t go up very much (3% or CPI whichever is lower a year max). If it weren’t for Portability, then after you had lived in your home for a long time and you moved to another home in Florida of the same value you’d lose the benefit of that “lock down” and your tax bill would go up….. usually WAY up. Portability keeps that from happening. So you want as MUCH Portability as you can get. And since Portability = Market Value on the Tax Rolls – Assessed Value on the Tax Rolls, you want your Market Value to be as high as possible after the initial year valuation!
In conclusion- it is VERY important that you check your TRIM notice the first year that you receive it to make sure that your Market Value is as low as possible (usually should be about 85% of what you paid for your home), and then in subsequent years to make sure that it actually is moving up and is somewhere around 85% of what you think your home would sell for. If not, then you must quickly take action! You only have 25 days from the date on which your TRIM notice was mailed (which is usually the first week of August) to contact the Property Appraiser, dispute the value, try to work out an adjustment, and if they refuse then to file a Value Adjustment Board petition with your local VAB board. The last date for filing VAB petitions varies from about Sept. 8th to around Sept. 17th depending on where you live in Florida. If your Market Value as shown in your TRIM notice is inaccurate, and you don’t file the VAB petition by that date, then your rights are lost for that year to get any adjustment made. THIS BECOMES A CRITICAL SITUATION IF YOU HAVE LIVED IN YOUR HOME FOR A SIGNIFICANT NUMBER OF YEARS AND ARE PLANNING ON SELLING IT. WARNING: TRIM notices keep getting more and more complicated… they show proposed taxes and rates and all kinds of additional information. None of this is very important beyond general information because YOU don’t have the realistic ability to change any of it. HOWEVER YOU DO HAVE A VERY POWERFUL AND DIRECT ABILITY TO CHANGE AN INACCURATE MARKET VALUE. So remember to look and see what the Market (sometimes called “Just”) Value of your property is on your TRIM notice and call the Property Appraiser to dispute it if it is not correct. If they won’t adjust it, then file a VAB petition by the required date!
Attached is an example of a TRIM Notice and where you will look on it to see what the Market (Just) Value is to verify that it is correct. Remember, the FIRST year that you get a TRIM Notice (August of the year following the year in which you purchased your property) you want to see a Market Value of 85% or LESS of what you paid for your property, and in subsequent years you want to see 85% of what you think your home would sell for or MORE. If you don’t follow this strategy to keep your Market Value where it should be, then you will be costing yourself money in extra property taxes!
If you find all this confusing and would rather not handle it yourself, for $175 Florida Homestead Check can handle it all for you. Just go to www.floridahomesteadcheck.com and click on “Get an Analysis”. You’ll answer a few easy questions and after you submit and pay you’ll receive your personalized property tax analysis minutes later. Once you receive your report, just call SUN-TAX-SAVE and have a one-on-one property tax consultation with one of our tax specialists who will review your report with you and answer any questions that you have. We’ll identify if there are any issues that you need to address and walk you through the process for correcting them. If we do see things that need to be fixed and you don’t feel like handling it yourself, you can hire us on a contingency fee basis to handle them for you. That means that you don’t have to pay us anything unless or until we achieve the savings that we have identified. Dealing with the county property appraiser’s office can be a bit daunting for some people, so we give you easy step-by-step instructions for doing so. But remember- it’s like baking a cake- you HAVE to follow the recipe EXACTLY or you will have bad results! And if you don’t want to- we’re here and are happy to handle it for you. We are proud to report that in 2019 we achieved our target adjustments 100% of the time!
We hope that you found this article about TRIM notices helpful and that it saves your family money on your property taxes! If so, please feel free to leave your comments below.
P.S.- here are some EASY steps to making sure that you properly check your TRIM Notice:
- Open your TRIM Notice.
- Find the Market (Just) Value.
- Is this the FIRST time you have received a TRIM Notice since you purchased your home?
IF YES: You want your Market (Just) Value to be as LOW as possible on this TRIM Notice.
- What did you pay for your home?
- Multiply that by 85%
- Is the Market (Just) Value in your TRIM Notice LOWER than that?
- IF SO, GREAT. No need to do anything.
- IF NOT, then that’s not good. Multiply the amount by which your Market (Just) value is high by 2%. This is approximately how much extra you’ll pay in property taxes every year if you don’t get your Market(Just) Value adjusted to a more reasonable number.
IF NO (you did not buy your home last year): You want your Market (Just) Value to be as HIGH as possible on this and future TRIM notices.
- What do you think your home would reasonably sell for if you put it on the market?
- Multiply your estimated sales price by 85%.
- Is the Market (Just) Value on your TRIM notice lower than that?
- If so, multiply the amount by which it is lower by 2% (Florida’s average total tax rate). If you sell this home and you don’t get the Market(Just) Value adjusted to a more reasonable value first, then if you buy another home in Florida you’ll pay this much more in taxes every year on that home the rest of your life in that home!
- IF THERE IS AN ISSUE TAKE ACTION BEFORE THE DATE SHOWN ON THE TRIM NOTICE (USUALLY AROUND SEPT. 10TH).