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The Notice of Proposed Property Taxes, also called a ‘Truth in Millage’ (TRIM) Notice, is mailed to property owners in mid to late August each year. There are almost 600,000 notices sent for Palm Beach County alone. I suppose if anyone sends you a form and tells you it is the “truth” you should be skeptical and this is the skepticism you should have for this notice. The Office of the Property Appraiser urges you to read your TRIM Notice carefully but it does not always make sense to a lay person unfamiliar with all the jargon. The Notice states that they are “not a bill.” This much is true but it does reflect what your property taxes are likely to be on your November property tax bill so it is really important. Just because it is not a bill does not mean it should be disregarded.

The Notice contains information pertaining to your property taxes in the following categories: (i) Ad Valorem Taxes; and (ii) Non Ad Valorem Taxes. The first category is what you traditionally think of as your real estate taxes and the second relates to taxes for services such as garbage, fire and lighting.

It also establishes your property values as of the January 1 BEFORE the notice date. In this year, it would be as of January 1, 2016. It will also tell you what other exemptions and benefits you may have. If the exemption or benefit is not on the TRIM notice, then it is the position of your Property Appraiser that it is not available to you or you have not applied for it.

The Market Value is listed on your notice, and is also known as ‘Just Value’. It supposedly reflects what a willing buyer would pay to one willing seller subject to certain additional considerations set forth in State law. For example it should take into account estimated reasonable costs associated with a sale.

Just value is then refined as the ‘Assessed Value.’ Assessed Value is generally the Just Value limited by the ‘Save Our Homes’ (SOH) cap on homesteaded property, the 10% cap on non-homesteaded property or portability limitations. The Assessed Value of homesteaded property cannot increase more than 3% a year subject to certain matters such as a material alteration of the house or a sale of a partial interest. Remember, Market Value can rise; it is just limited by the Assessed Value. There might be other limitations that apply, such as an agricultural exemption. All should be checked by the property owner when the TRIM notice arrives.

If you bought the house during the current year, be careful. This is a snapshot as of January 1 of the year in which you received the notice. Your former owner’s property exemptions are not necessarily yours. You have a limited amount of time to straighten away your own exemptions and to make sure they are documented with the local authorities.

The mailing of the TRIM Notice begins an appeal period. It is typically disclosed in the notices. DO NOT MISS THAT DATE if you disagree with the value in the notice or the exemptions granted. It is extremely difficult to obtain any relief after that date so if you intend on challenging the notice, you must file your appeal timely. This can be done online and we encourage you to do so. Because we must take responsibility, if we file a petition on your behalf, we must charge for your appeal. There is a minimum charge of $350.00 for filing.

Trying to identify a successful appeal before filing a petition is difficult. In a rising market, it is likely that comparable sales will support the Property Appraiser’s estimate. While you might not accept it, evidence that your neighbor’s home is assessed differently than your own is not the competent evidence that a Special Magistrate will accept as persuasive. Comparable sales or an MAI appraisal are about the only evidence that is considered important. Remember, the burden of proof is on you.

We hope this helps you in reviewing your situation. Like all other things “government,” they do not make it easy to interpret their own notices that are meant to serve public with full disclosure.