Florida county says new software is keeping property taxation fair

Beachfront condos show damage from Hurricane Irma on September 13, 2017 in Vilano Beach in St. Johns County, Florida. (Sean Rayford / Getty Images)

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Officials in St. Johns County, Florida, on Thursday announced a new contract with the software company TrueRoll that has they say will ensure property owners who were eligible for tax exemptions receive their benefits.

The platform, which the county began using in March, grants the local government with easy access to out-of-state records it couldn’t see previously, county property appraiser Eddie Creamer told StateScoop. Already, the software has helped nearly 100 property owners receive their exemptions, he said.

With that new data, Creamer’s office identified more than 1,900 homeowners who were eligible for an exemption — such as low-income residents, military veterans and seniors — but didn’t apply for one. The county mailed customized postcards informing those residents of the benefit they could receive and the response was immediate, Creamer said.

“Identifying those folks that may have gotten an exemption that didn’t qualify for it is important, but it was just as equally important to identify people who qualify for an exemption but for whatever reason had not applied for it,” he said. “They deserve that exemption, the constitution grants them that exemption and I feel like it’s equally my job to reach out and make sure they get it.”

TrueRoll, which promises its customers accurate property tax exemption data through an aggregation of more than 1,000 sources — including social media platforms like Facebook and Instagram and federal agencies like the Census Bureau and the IRS — enabled St. Johns County to learn about out-of-state events that can affect a property owner’s eligibility for an exemption, like a divorce or receiving a similar exemption in another state.

St. Johns County, located south of Jacksonville, is using the software to wrangle data on those out-of-state events to ensure its tax rolls are accurate for its 148,000 residential parcels. According to the company, the county was also able to collect more than $1 million in back-taxes and penalties.

Creamer said his office has extensive access to in-state records, including Social Security information, driver’s licenses and addresses, but that the amount of data his office didn’t have confounded his goals as the county’s property appraiser.

“I believe taxation should be as fair, accurate and equitable as it can possibly be,” he said. “And there’s two prongs of that for us in Florida. One is to accurately value property. The other is to properly administer exemptions.”

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data, Florida, property tax, St. Johns County, TrueRoll
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