Most 2011 tax appeals untouched
By Laura Stace
Property tax appeals in Miami-Dade have again dropped almost 20,000, yet at least 56,400 are still pending from last year with untold taxpayer dollars on the line.
While exact figures aren't yet in, Value Adjustment Board Manager Robert Alfaro estimated appeals this year at 74,300. Last year, the county got 94,000, he said.
Appeals steadily grew from 64,013 in 2007 to a high of 143,255 in 2009 before falling off.
Hearings from 2011's appeals are 35% to 40% done, Mr. Alfaro said. After an appeal succeeds, he said, it usually takes 30-60 days to get a refund.
He said he expects hearings to begin next April or May on the 2012 appeals, with scheduling beginning in February or March.
Mr. Alfaro said he couldn't determine how many appeals this year were for either commercial or residential properties.
Dixon Commercial Real Estate handles about 1,500 commercial and residential tax assessment appeals each year. Team member Roger Lopez said appeals probably declined for two reasons.
First, he said, some property owners didn't appeal because they believe the county property appraiser fairly assessed their properties.
"We feel the property appraisers have, over the past few years, done their best to accurately assess properties and their values," he said.
Mr. Lopez said outgoing appraiser Pedro J. Garcia worked with community members to insure fair assessment values. Mr. Garcia, Miami's first elected appraiser, was defeated in August by Carlos Lopez-Cantera.
Secondly, Mr. Lopez said, property values stayed relatively stable from 2011 to 2012.
A law imposed last year that required property owners to pay at least 75% of their bill before lodging an appeal didn't deter commercial owners from lodging appeals, Mr. Lopez said.
"For commercial owners, property tax is something they cannot let go to the wayside," he said.
Last year, he said, many people weren't aware of the new law and their cases would have been dropped if they didn't make the 75% payment.
Mr. Lopez said these people would have received letters of non-payment and wouldn't be eligible to appeal. He said his clients received many letters alerting them of the new law.
Barry Sharpe, managing member and principal of Property Tax Appeal Group LLC, said many people didn't appeal this year because most still don't know the outcome of their 2011 appeal.
"They say, "Why would I appeal this year if I do not know what I got last year?'" he said.
The fact that values remained stable, Mr. Sharpe said, also would have added to the decline in appeals.
While the new 75% payment law would have deterred some appeals, he said, it wouldn't have been a significant number.
Mr. Alfaro said those who haven't yet filed an appeal still can do so, provided they have good reason and show documents to substantiate why they couldn't appeal on time.
Each August, Miami-Dade County property owners receive a notice of proposed taxes, or Trim notice. Property owners may file petitions with the Value Adjustment Board within 25 days of the mailing of the notice if they feel the proposed assessed value is incorrect.
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