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.

Our findings.

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 Cypress Swampcontains 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 WD_flaggingmaps 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.

Timing. 

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.Wetland Borrow Pit

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.

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Showing 7 comments
  • Bablofil
    Reply

    Thanks, great article.

    • onsiteec
      Reply

      We are happy you enjoyed the article. It is a great service that we enjoy providing to our clients as it realized very real results. ~Janet

  • Ron
    Reply

    I have a vacant beachfront lot on Lake Huron, Michigan. 119 X 100 ft.. We have a small wetland area and the county clerk say’s it would never pass code . I am taxed $1200 a year. To me it is a crime to tax people that much for a vacant lot that they tell you can have a RV for 30 days then remove and you can bring it back two more times for a total of 90 days a year. I been there 12 years and never knew I may get a break on the wetland. That has one frog. I am beside myself. You probably couldn’t do anything for the little guy. The world is full of injustice. Taxation without representation.

  • Travis
    Reply

    How would I see if able for wetland funds? 2 acres Is flooded a lot and was wondering what i chould do.

    • Adam Hoyles
      Reply

      It depends on a few things. First, what state and county is the lot located in? Generally we have found that things like homestead exemptions and other exemptions change the taxable value more than the land itself does. It also matters if the property is located on a waterway. Most Florida counties value waterfront lots by how long the shoreline is. Call us if you would like to explore this in more detail Adjustments would need to be made before about August of any given year to be considered for the following tax year.

  • Brian
    Reply

    If I’m a home owner and I have wetlands on the back of my property, is there something I can do?

    • Adam Hoyles
      Reply

      That depends on what you want to do. If you want your taxable value adjusted, it works better on parcels at least 10 acres or larger. It also works better when you are not a waterfront lot. Call us so we can look at the specifics. August is the time of year to get those adjustments completed.

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