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County tax assessors say builder incentives increase property taxes

If a builder gives away a $20,000 car to the buyer of a $300,000 home, should the actual value of the home – for property tax purposes – be reduced by $20,000 to $280,000? Two Florida county property appraisers think so.

The rampant use of incentives by builders to drum up sales worries Escambia County property appraiser Chris Jones and Santa Rosa County property appraiser Greg Brown. Jones and Brown – along with other appraisal authorities – argue that sales prices recorded by the counties are being inflated by the value of these incentives, pushing up property taxes.

The tax rolls used to set millage rates are 5 percent higher than they should be as a result, some say; and Jones and Brown attempted to account for this in the tax rolls they recently submitted to the state. Property appraisers generally calculate a tax roll based on a total sales record that has been lowered by 15 percent due to closing costs and sales commissions, but Jones and Brown reduced it by an additional 5 percent to make up for the incentives.

Their tax rolls were rejected by the Department of Revenue. The higher tax roll may very well boost property taxes, but experts say decreasing the tax roll would not help homeowners with a homestead exemption due to a provision in the Save Our Homes Act that permits jumps in assessments by as much as 3 percent even when homestead values decline.

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