Misplaced decimal means big property tax bills

By Bankrate

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Remember that tax tip about double checking your math before submitting your return? It applies to tax agencies, too.

A misplaced decimal by Jupiter, Florida, tax officials prompted a panic by some homeowners who recently received larger-than-expected property tax bills.

One dot means 10 times tax trouble

The annual tax bills were 10 times greater than they should have been. Instead of a 0.233 millage rate used to calculate a portion of the local property taxes, the town used 2.33.

Fortunately for the seaside community’s property owners, Jupiter officials realized their error — after hearing from angry residents — and have corrected it.

“When I was entering the Town’s Debt portion of the millage rate for the preliminary tax notice I inadvertently typed 2.330 instead of .2330,” Jupiter Finance Director Mike Villella told The Palm Beach Post.

And there’s an even brighter silver lining. Jupiter officials are considering a slight decrease to the overall property tax rate.

I suspect the upcoming public hearing on the proposed property tax rate will be quite well attended.

Review your tax bills

All of us property owners can learn from the Jupiter math error. Everyone makes mistakes, so we need to pay close attention to those property tax assessments we receive, as well as our eventual actual tax bill.

When you think your property tax bill is too big, you have options to correct it. Start with these 3 steps to lower your property taxes:

1. Review your property assessment amount.
2. Apply for homestead and any other exemption amounts for which you qualify.
3. Freeze your assessment if you are part of an eligible property group, such as a member of the military or a senior citizen.

You can get an idea of what type of exemptions your tax officials offer by checking your state’s property tax section at Bankrate’s state tax pages.

Appeal your assessment

If after receiving all the exemptions you deserve you still find your property tax bill is larger than you believe it should be, you can appeal it to the taxing officials.

It takes some work as homeowners who’ve gone through the appeals process can attest, but when you get a correct, lower bill, it’s worth it.

Do you regularly check your real estate tax assessments and bills, or do you just pay what the tax collector says you owe? Have you ever appealed a property tax bill?

Paul S. Herman CPA, a tax expert for individuals and businesses, is the founder of Herman & Company, CPA’s PC in White Plains, New York.  He provides guidance and strategies to improve clients’ financial well-being.

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