Florida County Constitutional Officer
Florida's Constitution authorizes the position of Tax Collector as an independent unit of its political subdivisions, which are otherwise known as counties. Joe G. Tedder serves as Tax Collector for the state political subdivision of Polk County.
The Tax Collector's responsibilities involve the collection of revenue and public funding for a variety of state, regional, and local governmental agencies and taxing authorities; the enforcement against delinquency in payment of such revenues and funds; the distribution of such revenues and funds in a timely manner to various state and local agencies and taxing authorities involved; the investment of public funds pending distribution; the vigilant adherence to procedures designed to promote fairness to the taxpayer and governmental efficiency and accountability in the collection, enforcement, distribution, and investment of funds; and, serve as the most likely contact on a daily basis with and between citizens and taxpayers and the various state, regional, and local governmental agencies and taxing authorities.
As a position established by Florida's Constitution to complete a system of checks and balances, the Tax Collector for Polk County serves the people of Polk County and the State of Florida.
The Tax Collector is elected by the voters in Polk County to serve a four year term, with no limit on the number of terms served.
The Tax Collector's Office is responsible for providing a wide range of services to the citizens and taxpayers of Polk County on behalf of other governmental units. These services consist primarily of the collection and administration of ad Valorem taxes, non-ad Valorem assessments, driver license and identification card issuance, motor vehicle taxes and registration/plate/decal issuance, county local business taxes and receipt issuance, tourist development taxes and hunting and fishing fees and license issuance. These services are performed on behalf of 32 various local governments and agencies of the State of Florida.
Each of these services provided are discussed in more detail as follows:
Ad Valorem Taxes and Non-Ad Valorem Assessments
The Tax Collector's Office is responsible for collecting and remitting the taxes and assessments provided on the annual tax roll provided by the Property Appraiser's Office and independent taxing authorities. The Tax Collector's Office is not responsible for determining assessed values, exemptions, taxable values or the tax rates. The tax roll includes real estate taxes, tangible taxes and non-ad Valorem assessments. Non-ad Valorem assessments consists primarily of assessments for fire services, solid waste and yard trash collection, disposal services and lighting districts.
The collections of these taxes and assessments are administered in accordance with Florida Statutes and the rules and regulations of the Florida Department of Revenue. These services are provided on behalf of taxpayers, the Polk County Board of County Commissioners, the Polk County School Board, Polk's municipalities and special taxing districts (such as water management districts).
The Tax Collector's Office is required by the state to report to the Board of County Commissioners the status of the current tax roll within sixty days of the tax certificate sale.
Tax Certificate Redemptions
On or before June 1 each year, the Tax Collector's Office offers for sale tax certificates on properties with unpaid real estate taxes. A tax certificate represents a lien on the property. The purpose of the sale is to collect unpaid real estate taxes on behalf of the numerous taxing authorities.
After the sale of tax certificates the Tax Collector's Office is responsible for handling the subsequent collections from the property owner and remitting the funds to the certificate holder.
When County held certificates are redeemed by the property owner the funds are remitted to the various taxing authorities.
Motor Vehicle Transactions
The Tax Collector's Office processes motor vehicle title and registration transactions, boat title and registration transactions and various other transactions on behalf of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles. The Tax Collector's Office also collect sales taxes on sales of motor vehicles and boats not involving licensed dealers on behalf of the Department of Revenue.
Driver License Transactions
Currently the Tax Collector's Lake Wales Service Center processes driver license transactions on behalf of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles, which still operates driver license offices in Lakeland and Haines City. Note: By 2015, the Tax Collector's Office will assume the reponsibility for providing all driver license transactions throughout Polk County.
County Local Business Taxes
The Tax Collector's Office administers the local business tax imposed by the Board of County Commissioners. This tax is required of various individuals and enterprises doing business in Polk County.
Tourist Development Taxes
The Tax Collector's Office administers the tourist development tax imposed by the Board of County Commissioners. This is a 5% tax on the transient or short-term rentals of accommodations.
Hunting and Fishing Licenses
The Tax Collector's Office issues and is responsible for issuing hunting and fishing licenses in the county on behalf of the Florida Fish & Wildlife Conservation Commission (for hunting and fishing licenses).
Other Payment Processing Operations
The Tax Collector's Office currently processes mail-in payments for other governmental entities in the areas of utility payments and municipal local business taxes.
Operating Revenues and Expenditures
The Tax Collector's Office for Polk County operates as a "fee office." This means the Tax Collector's Office earns fees and commissions for the services rendered. The fees and commissions are established primarily by the Florida Legislature and are contained in the Florida Statutes.
The annual budget of the office is approved by the Department of Revenue. Any subsequent increases in the budget must also be approved by the Department of Revenue.
The excess of revenues over expenditures are remitted to each governmental unit that paid fees to our office in the same proportion as the fees paid bear to the total revenues of the office.
The Tax Collector and his office are first and foremost accountable to the citizens and taxpayers of Polk County.
To insure that the Tax Collector remains primarily accountable to the people, the Tax Collector's Office has undertaken a mission, whereby it is "working to earn the public's trust and confidence by providing the best in customer services through assured quality and the efficient use of public funds."
To succeed in its mission, the Tax Collector's Office has adopted an "Outline For Success" that seeks to measure operational performance, including meaningful public evaluations, so that administrative measures can be taken to initiate and maintain positive activities and/or appropriately address shortcomings in customer services.