If you’ve bought or are thinking about buying a luxury home at The Colony or within Lee County, it’s important to stay up to speed with the current property taxes in the county because once you close on a property, you’re responsible for the taxes. Although there are no income, inheritance or luxury taxes in Florida, you are required to pay your property tax. Whether you decide to pay your taxes independently or have them escrowed in with your mortgage, the following information can help you stay informed and ensure you’re taking advantage of tax breaks and not overpaying your taxes.

To understand how and what you will pay for taxes, we’ve amassed information from several sources, including the Lee County Tax Collector and Property Appraiser’s offices, to give you a one-stop tax guide for luxury living in Lee County.

Dealing with Taxes: Distinguishing Between the Offices

Property Tax Collector’s Office

Essentially, this office is in charge of mailing, receiving, and processing all of the paperwork and tax bills within Lee County. The Tax Collector’s

office can also handle questions regarding payments. If you’ve just purchased a home in Lee County, you may want to check out their new property owner’s guide, which is available online.

Property Appraiser’s Office

This office sets the property values based on current market value. They deal with exemptions, as well as any contentions regarding property value. This office is also responsible for mailing out notices of TRIM (proposed property taxes).

Important Terms to Know

When navigating the sea of legal-ese with regard to tax talk, there are several terms of which you must be familiar in order to understand what you need to take care of when it comes to your property tax. Some of the common, important terms you need to know include:

Ad valorem

This is a Latin term that means “according to worth,” and it is the way in which Lee County (and the rest of Florida) determines property taxes. You are able to calculate your property tax amount by taking the non-exempt value of your home (excluding exemptions such as the Save Our Homes exemption) and multiplying it by the rate of taxation (millage rate).

Millage Rate

The millage rate is essentially the rate of taxation broken down into dollars of tax per thousand dollars of taxable equity.

You’ll see this term used when calculating and estimating your taxes.

TRIM

This is a shortened term to refer to Truth in Millage, which equates to the proposed taxes for the upcoming year. It is merely an estimate and is meant to help homeowners navigate the complex world of taxing authorities and what

the expectations are for the upcoming year. The 2015 TRIM Guide is available online, which may help you understand what goes into calculating your taxes for the future. It considers the taxes needed by various taxing authorities based upon their budgets, and it explains how you might be affected.

Estimate Your Taxes

The Lee County Property Appraiser’s office allows you to estimate your taxes using an easy online calculator. You’ll need to know the sale price (or estimated sale price), Save Our Homes benefit information (if you’re transferring a benefit – you’ll need the old assessed value and the old market value from the previous home). The calculator will provide you with the millage rate, estimated assessed value, estimated taxes and estimated taxes with the homestead exemption.

Exemptions

Who wouldn’t want to take advantage of a tax exemption?! The following list of exemptions are options that you can take to reduce the amount of taxes you pay. Below are two of the most common exemptions that occur for people living in luxury homes. There are also exemptions for veterans and those with disabilities, so be sure to check out the full list on the Property Appraiser’s website.

Homestead Exemption

Within the state of Florida and within Lee County, residents are able to file for a homestead exemption. This is a tax exemption gives you a deduction of up to $50,000 from the assessed value of your property. You’ll need proof of ownership (the deed to the home) in addition to other identification documents, which are listed on the County Website. You can file online, by mail, or in person.

Thinking of renting your luxury home? Keep in mind that you must reside in your home for at least two years, and you cannot rent it out (it constitutes abandonment and you may lose the designation of a homestead). You’ll need to contact the Lee County Appraiser’s office to determine whether or not you’ll be excluded from this exemption if you will be renting out your

home.

Senior Exemptions

Since many seniors opt to retire and live in a luxury home like The Colony in Bonita Springs, it’s important to know that seniors also qualify for an additional exemption. The Senior Exemption is available to senior citizens aged 65 and older and whose income does not exceed the set limitation. More information is available on the County Appraiser’s website.

The benefits do vary depending on where your home is located. For those who reside in Sanibel, Fort Myers Beach, and Bonita Springs, the exemption benefit is $25,000. Cape Coral is $50,000 and in all Lee County Millages, $50,000 and up to $250,000.

Tax Limitations in Florida

Save Our Homes

The Save Our Homes tax benefit limits the annual assessment increases on homestead-exempt property by 3%. This benefit can never be greater than market value, and you can transfer it should you move within the state of Florida.

Florida is a Great State!

Overall, Florida is attractive to people looking for luxury homes because of its excellent tax benefits, warm weather, and beautiful views. If you’re thinking about moving to The Colony and taking advantage of all Lee County has to offer, contact me today!

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