Suwannee Democrat

August 23, 2013

FAQ about ad valorem taxes

Suwannee County Property Appraiser: “Mobile home owners pay taxes, too.”

Bryant Thigpen
Suwannee Democrat

Live Oak — What is ad valorem taxes?

“Basically, it’s an assessment based on just the value of real and tangible property,” said Linda Vought, assistant property appraiser. The Property Appraiser’s Office assesses each property in the county for tax purposes. Taxing authorities in the county then set their millage rate.

Every tax-paying homeowner in the county is required to pay a designated millage rate to the Suwannee County Board of County Commissioners, the Suwannee County School Board and the Suwannee River Water Management District. Citizens who live within the City of Live Oak and the Town of Branford are responsible for paying an additional tax based on a millage rate to their respective government offices.

The millage rates are determined by each governing entity.

“They determine how many mils it’s going to take to come up with the monies for their budget for the upcoming fiscal year,” Vought said.

The tax collector is then responsible for collecting the ad valorem taxes assessed to the property owners.

Who pays ad valorem taxes?

According to Jenkins, there is a misconception that only homes built on site are required to pay ad valorem taxes.

“That’s not true,” Jenkins said. “Mobile homes have to pay taxes just like a site built home. They’re both assessed the same.”

While reviewing the entire tax roll for the county, Jenkins said only 11.67 percent of the mobile home owners are not required to pay ad valorem taxes.

“Of the homes that are built on site, 5.44 percent of Suwannee County homeowners don’t have to pay ad valorem taxes. That’s only about a six percent difference,” Jenkins said.

Who is exempt? 

According to the property appraiser, homeowners may be exempt from portions of the ad valorem taxes, but there are very few homeowners who are totally exempt. For the average person to be exempt from paying ad valorem taxes, they must meet one of the three requirements:

1. A homestead property that has an assessment of less than $25,000 is not required to pay the taxes.

2. Individuals who qualify as a fully disabled service-connected veteran would be exempt from paying ad valorem taxes.

3. Also, if a person is confined to a wheel chair and meets the low income requirements, they would qualify for ad valorem tax exemption.

How is a home assessed?

“A mobile home is assessed by square feet just like a site built home,” Jenkins said. “It all depends on the condition and quality of the home.”

Jenkins said when appraising a home, several factors are used to determine the final appraised value of the property.

One of the elements in determining the overall value is the characteristics or “features” of the home, Jenkins said.

“If a home has an A roof, or whether it has just a flat roof, all of that is taken into consideration when assessing the property,” Jenkins said. “We look at what it would cost to replace those features.”

The quality of the home is also taken into consideration.

“Whether it’s a red brick home or paneled, the quality and the way it was constructed is factored in,” said Jenkins.
 The material that is used to construct the home and the appearance of it is also used to determine the value.

Jenkins said the base rate for taxes is lower on a mobile home, but that is attributed to the cost to build. A mobile home and site built house can have the same square footage, but the cost to build could be different based on the quality of material.

“Your mobile homes for the most part are going to be smaller in size than your site built homes,” Jenkins said. “And since the homes are appraised by the cost to build, mobile homes are typically going to be less.”

Mobile home owners must register with state

When a person registers a piece of property that includes a mobile home, they are given a black decal to place in a window if they are the owner of both the land and home. The sticker will contain the letters, “RP,” which according to Jordan, it means the property is being assessed as “real property.”

The RP decal is a permanent decal, rather than renewing annually.

If the decal contains an expiration date, it signifies the home is not listed on real estate because they don’t own the land the mobile home sits on. The individual must renew the decal yearly, which expires Dec. 31 of each year.

If the mobile home owner does not own the property, they are required by Florida state law to register their home.

“A mobile home is registered much like a vehicle,” Jordan said. “When a person builds a home, they have to go through the process of obtaining building permits. The decal for a mobile home lets us know the home has been properly registered with the state.”

The fee for a yearly mobile home decal is determined by the length of the mobile home. The fees are regulated by the state of Florida.

According to the Florida Statutes, when a decal is renewed, $3 of the money collected is retained by the tax collector’s office. The remaining balance is then sent to the state government to disperse. The state will collect a percentage of the funds and then distribute the remaining balance to the respective government municipalities.

If a person lives in the county, the state will distribute a portion of the funds to Suwannee County and to the Suwannee County School System. If one lives within the city limits of Live Oak, the city will collect a portion of the fee, as well as the school system. If one lives in the Town of Branford, the state will disperse funds to the Town of Branford and to the school system.