What You Missed – SREIA General Meeting – August 2009

by Robert Davis

Jeff Smith

Jeff Smith has been battling with property tax issues for years and is an expert at getting real estate taxes lowered. Over the last few years, everyone’s investment property taxes have skyrocketed. Many of our own property taxes have tripled or more in the last six years. This is due to our property values being inflated much higher perhaps than where they should be and our government officials not lowering the millage to give them less than a giant increase in revenue. So in order to help keep rental properties in a positive cash flow state, Jeff has appealed the values set on his properties every year. In most cases, he is able to get reductions in value which means reductions in the taxes levied on the properties.

Around September we get the TRIM notices ‘Truth in Millage’ in the mail for every property. Jeff said we need to look at these notices as soon as we get them. Some of the things this notice shows are what taxes will be due if the proposed budget changes are made, what they will be if no budget changes are made, what they were the previous year, what the appraised value of the property is, and what exemptions apply if any. We have 25 days from the mailing date to appeal the value shown on these TRIM notices. After that window of time we can no longer make an appeal. This is why we need to take swift action to resolve any issues we might have.

The first thing we might do after gathering our good reasons to lower the values is to just call the property appraiser and state our case as to why the property value should be lowered. This is a free appeal and sometimes is enough to get the job done. If that fails, Jeff said we must next file for an appeal. In our county, this currently costs $15 per property plus a $3 fee for the notary to sign an oath we must take. On the form they want to know the time and dates you prefer to have your hearings. Jeff said it may be better to set your dates late in the hearing window. He also said we should bring a written statement to say at the hearing. This way you are less likely to say something you didn’t want to, and you won’t forget to mention all of your reasons and facts.

Jeff mentioned some of the things we might ask for at the hearing. For example, we might ask the appraiser when they did the last inspection of the property. How did he or she come to their appraised price? We would want to see what comps they used. Where the comps taken from a wrong area or from an area not as depressed as where our property is? Where the comps similar in structure and square footage and lot size? He said we probably should take our own comps to the hearing.

There are 8 criteria used to determine if a property value should be lowered. Jeff reviewed these and said they are all listed in section 193.011. He also suggested we read that statute. A few of the key criteria we might use are the location if a blighted area, the condition of the property, and the sale price less all the costs involved. Getting the values lowered might take some work, but may be well worth the effort. For each $1,000 we lower the value of a property, we save about $26 in taxes in our county.

The SREIA August General Meeting had a good turnout, since many people wanted to hear Jeff Smith talk about lowering our property taxes. Jeff is a long time member of Suncoast REIA since 1978 as the RAND (Robert Allen Nothing Down) Club. He is a former business writer for The Tampa Tribune and is a successful investor and entrepreneur. He can be reached at his email address of JeffSmithTrustee@Yahoo.com


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