How is Market Value Determined?
There are three approaches to value: cost, sales comparison and income. In Indian River County, we use a computer-assisted mass appraisal system that incorporates elements of all three approaches to value. If a number of properties similar to yours sold before the January 1 assessment date, this is the best evidence of market value.
What are the Property Appraiser's Duties?
The Appraiser's office determines the market value of your property (using the mass appraisal method). This is our only part in the taxing process.
Every year, we review the assessments and compare them with current sales and make adjustments when called for. We try to physically inspect each property once every three years. If, after conferring with one of our evaluators, you still believe that your "market value" is higher than actual value, we encourage you to file a petition with the Value Adjustment Board.
The millage rates are set by the taxing districts. Your tax bill is based on your assessed value less exemptions, times the millage rates of all taxing districts in which your property is located.
What is the Value Adjustment Board?
The VAB is created by state law and is made up of three County Commissioners and two School Board members. Petitions to the VAB are available in the Appraiser's office; a $15.00 fee is required.
The VAB may appoint Special Masters, who are qualified appraisers or attorneys. These masters are independent of the Appraiser's office. The Property Appraiser is simply a party before the VAB, just as is the petitioner.
The only question the special masters or the VAB can determine is whether the appraiser's market value of the property exceeds its January 1 actual value. The deadline for filing a petition is on the TRIM notice. Supplying all of the information on the petition makes it easier for your Appraiser's office to review your request for a lower assessment.
Can You win a Reduction Before the VAB?
Yes, you can obtain a reduction if you can prove that your assessment exceeded market value. But if you base your case on a personal hardship, such as living on a fixed income or an inability to pay more taxes, the unfortunate answer is "no". You may be eligible for the tax deferral plan administered by the Tax Collector's office. Information about the plan is included with your tax bill.
The VAB does not set the millage rate. Its only function is to determine whether your assessment exceeds market value. We encourage you to discuss your assessment with a member of the Property Appraiser's staff before you file a petition. The Property Appraiser's goal is not to increase assessments, but only to determine that your property is accurately appraised. No taxing body can pressure us into setting an appraisal higher than it should be.
How Do I Prepare for a Hearing?
To win your hearing, your presentation must be based on facts, not generalties. The best way to prepare for your hearing is to find evidence of sales of comparable properties that sold before January 1. Assessment increases from one year to the next is not a basis for reduction. Common neighborhood problems are already considered in the sales.
What is the Hearing Procedure?
The hearings are scheduled in September. They are informal. While you don't need an attorney, one can represent you. You should present all testimony and all the evidence you feel will support your case. You will be asked to present your evidence, then a representative of the appraiser's office will present evidence as to the market value of your property. You get the last word. The VAB will ordinarily advise you of the decision on the spot. They will follow up by sending you a written copy.
What Happens Following the Hearing?
If you accept the Value Assessment Board's decision, you need do nothing further. If you disagree with the decision, the next step is a civil action in the Circuit Court. If you do not file a petition to the VAB, you may still file a lawsuit.