Wetlands and Property Taxes: When combined can save you money
Property tax rates, or millage rates, are driven by highest and best use of a property as determined by your county’s Property Appraiser’s Office (PAO). The PAO’s decisions are informed by future land use maps and zoning maps. So, if a property is zoned “Commercial” or “Light Industrial”, then the millage rate is much higher than, say, a property listed as “wetlands,” “swamps,” or “marshes.” Wetland properties should be taxed at a lower rate than regular residential or commercial property.
Here at OEC, we’ve found that most parcels, especially 10 acres or larger, are a mix of wetlands and uplands. At least one out of four parcels in Florida contains wetlands, and county property appraisers can reduce tax assessments based on the portion of that parcel that contains wetlands. We estimate that about 25% of property owners unknowingly pay too much in property taxes.
What we do.
We call this our Wetland Tax Reduction service, or WTR. When asked for a WTR, we first look at existing information on the property to estimate how much savings there will be for the client. If we determine that there is significant savings to be had, then the second step is to delineate the wetlands at the property. Lastly, we help file the paperwork with the county to reduce our client’s property tax liability.
Who is this best suited for.
Parcels 10 acres or larger will benefit the most from this service. Usually parcels under 10 acres are already benefiting from tax advantages like homestead exemptions. Larger property holders, especially investment property owners or trusts, benefit greatly from this.
Why the first step, the wetland delineation, is so important.
When the PAO assesses the millage rate, they are supposed to use all the data publicly available them to come up with a value. In addition to future land use maps and zoning maps, they often use the National Wetlands Inventory (NWI) as a baseline for wetland data assessments. The challenge with this approach is that the NWI data speaks to a larger, regional scale: i.e., wetlands on a square-mile basis. However, the more one drills down in that database to the parcel level, the less accurate it becomes – similar to how an image will pixelate when zoomed in extremely close. We send a wetland biologist to determine where the wetland line meets the upland, then convert that data to a map.
For most counties in Florida, adjustments to tax rolls must be submitted before August 1st to realize a savings in the upcoming tax year. Certainly, you can do this at any time of the year, but it may not
be until the next year after that, that the savings will kick in.
Our job as wetland scientists is to assist you with a field determination and a review of your tax record to make sure you are getting a fair assessment for your land.
Give us a call. We are happy to be of assistance.