Today is the deadline to pay property tax bills. At least 92.3% of Polk County property owners have already paid, according to the Tax Collector’s Office. But 45,765 owners received “courtesy reminder” letters earlier this month.

If you’re one of them, it’s important to get your payment in by midnight. Payments can be made online at and there is no convenience fee for people using e-checks.

“We always encourage people to pay as early as they can to take advantage of the discounts, but we understand financial challenges people face,” Polk County Tax Collector Joe Tedder said.

Unpaid taxes will be delinquent starting tomorrow and will have a 3% penalty added plus an “advertising charge.” For any taxes not paid by May 26, a tax certificate will be sold, creating a lien on the property.

“Florida law does give taxpayers extra time before their house is in jeopardy for failure to pay,” Tedder added. “But unfortunately with each month that passes, it costs the property owner more.”

‘Sticker shock’ for some new homebuyers

Longtime homeowners with homestead exemptions might not have noticed anything different about their property tax bills this year. Their increases are capped at a maximum of 3% annually, thanks to the Save Our Homes amendment approved by Florida voters in 1992.

However, some people who bought homes in Florida got sticker shock when they received their property tax notices last fall.

A Crystal Lake resident posted on Nextdoor in December that his property taxes were nearly $2,000 higher than his neighbor’s, despite both homes having similar square footage and yard space. “That’s about 50% more in taxes,” he wrote. The post received 68 comments, many from people in similar situations.

The new owners of a property on the 600 block of Hancock Street in Dixieland were dismayed to see their bill more than double from $2,237 in 2021 to $5,509 in 2022.

The new owner of a home in the 800 block of Interlachen Parkway in Shore Acres was surprised to see her bill jump from $1,236 in 2021 to $2,828 in 2022.

Property Appraiser Marsha Faux explained that when a home is sold, the previous owner’s Save Our Homes cap expires and the appraisal is reset based on market value. Although the real estate market has softened recently, strong sales from the year before were reflected on the most recent bills.

“We assess all properties every January 1,” Faux explained in an email. “We’re one year in arrears in Florida, meaning 2023 values are based on what happened in the market in 2022.”

New owners can apply for homestead exemptions to exempt $50,000 of value from taxation and limit future increases to 3%. In addition, people who previously owned residences in Florida can apply for homestead portability to carry over some of the benefit from their previous homestead.

A boon for local governments

The jump in taxable value after real estate changes hands can be challenging for homebuyers, but it’s good news for local governments that depend on property tax revenues to fund basic services.

Millage rates didn’t go up, but Polk County is poised to collect a record $744.6 million in property taxes from real estate this year, a 17.1% increase from last year’s total of $635.8 million.

The increased revenue comes from two factors. Higher values of existing homes increased the tax roll by 13.15%. The rest of the growth came from construction adding new units that are subject to tax.

Faux said that countywide, 208 new subdivisions and more than 19,000 parcels were added in 2021 and 2022. Residential properties account for 74% of property tax revenue; commercial properties make up the other 26%.

The City of Lakeland’s share of the property tax revenue is expected to be almost $49 million – up 15.8% from the $42.3 million it received last year. Property taxes are the single largest source of money for the city’s general fund, accounting for 22% of the budget.

Source: City of Lakeland

Despite the increases, city Finance Director Mike Brossart said Lakeland’s millage rate is comparatively low, compared with other parts of the state, but also within Polk County.

“If you look at property taxes, there’s 17 municipalities inside Polk County,” Brossart said. “Some of them like Highland Park are very small. We are third from the bottom” in millage.

“We’re providing great services at a very low price to our citizens,” he added. “We’ve got an ISO-1-rated fire department … I believe our police department is in the six-minute range for response times. And all of the amenities we have.”

‘Skip the line,’ recommends Tax Collector

The Tax Collector’s Office issued a press release urging people to avoid going to service centers in person to pay, if possible.

“The end of the month is always a busy day in our Service Centers,” Tedder said. “We are serving driver license customers and continuing to serve those individuals needing to renew their vehicle registrations.”

“This is why we are reminding the public that there are multiple ways to conduct their transaction without conducting a transaction in person,” he continued. “If you don’t need to be in our lobbies, I urge you to ‘skip the line.’”

Public engagement specialist Ashleigh Mills said there are three ways homeowners can pay their bills today and avoid penalties and late charges:

  • Property tax payment transactions may be conducted online at There are no convenience fees when paying by e-check (using bank routing and account numbers).
  • Payments mailed today will be considered on time as long as the date stamp says March 31.
  • Finally, property tax payments may be made in person or by placing payments in drop boxes located inside the Service Centers, including the one at 916 N. Massachusetts Ave, which is open until 5 p.m.

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Cindy GloverEditor

Cindy Glover moved to Lakeland in 2021 after spending two decades in South Florida. Her career has included journalism, education, digital marketing and public relations. She worked for the Albuquerque Journal and South Florida Sun-Sentinel and spent a year as a community engagement coordinator for the City of Lakeland before joining LkldNow.

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