Hurricane Property Tax Break in Works

Thousands of people with damaged or destroyed homes are having insult added to their injury this week. Their tax bills are showing up in the mail.

Tuesday, Gov. Jeb Bush endorsed the idea of a tax rebate for people with damaged homes, but homeowners will still have to pay the tax man on time.

Under Florida law property taxes are assessed on the value as of January 1. It doesn’t matter if the homes were destroyed or damaged in August or September. The full bill is due.

But now Gov. Jeb Bush says lawmakers ought to ease the pain with a rebate. He’s proposing asking lawmakers to give the okay when he calls them into special session in December.

Many of the details are still being worked out, but don’t plan on giving the rebate for your entire tax bill.

Gov. Bush says the rebate will only apply to the damage structure not the ground on which it sits.

“We would rebate you the taxes on the improved property, not on the land, but on the improved property. There might be a cap so folks that lost $2 million homes may not get the full amount."

Local governments have yet to take a position on the tax break, but Cliff Thaell, President of the Florida Association of Counties, says the money can’t come out of the individual county’s already cash strapped budgets.

“The overall ability of our counties to operate and provide essential lifesaving services could be impacted.”

The state’s chief financial officer, Tom Gallagher, has been helping negotiate the details.

“Whether we have the county issue refunds and we reimburse them from saved money, because I don’t think any of us believe we should burden the counties. Those are details that need to be worked out.”

But the fight will likely be over how much of a break should be given and whether the money comes from state or local coffers. Much of that will depend on new revenue estimates due late this week.

Many of the details of the rebate won’t be finalized until mid December, but homeowners with questions should contact their local property appraiser and make sure the appraiser knows their property is damaged.

More information can also be found on the web at www.floridataxcollectors.com.


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