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Florida Matters: 2012 Property Tax Amendments

Florida’s property tax code resembles the finest Swiss cheese - it’s so full of holes - says one academic. And voters have an opportunity to add more property tax exemptions when they go to the polls November 6th.

Five of the 11 proposed Florida Constitutional Amendments lower property taxes on selected populations. Voters will decide if they want to expand exceptions and give tax breaks to senior citizens, disabled veterans, small business owners and new home buyers.

If approved by 60 percent of voters, it will mean paying less for some. But, as one county commissioner puts it, when somebody pays less there’s always somebody who has to pay more.

Counties, cities and many agencies that depend on property taxes as their major source of revenue are worried about further big exemptions. The concern is that further erosion of their property tax base will force either cuts in services or increases in mileage rates which means everybody ends up paying.

This week on Florida Matters State Sen. Mike Bennett of Bradenton and New College political science professor and former Collins Center Fellow Frank Alcock discuss those amendments.

If there was ever a Florida election where voters may want to consider doing some homework - this is it. Here are the five Florida Constitutional Amendments that pertain to property taxes courtesy of information from the Collins Center for Public Policy:

Amendment 2 – Disabled veterans who entered the military when not a Florida resident would become eligible for a property tax discount commiserate with their disability. Disabled veterans who lived in Florida when they joined the service currently receive this property tax discount. Other requirements for the tax discount: the veteran must be a current Florida resident, 65 or older and disabled in combat.

Amendment 4 – It is 663 words long and has four main components:

  • - Property value decline – known as the “recapture rule” – it doesn’t allow property taxes to go up on homestead properties and specified non-homestead property when property values are going down.
  • - Property tax limitations – it gives new home buyers – defined as someone who has not owned a homestead property for the past three years – a discount of 50 percent on an assessed value above the $50,000 standard homestead exemption. The discount would phase out over five years.
  • - Non-homesteaded assessments – currently capped at 10 percent annual assessments on non-homestead property would be reduced to a 5 percent cap. Homestead properties have a 3 percent cap.
  • - Delay of scheduled repeal – currently set for 2019, repeal of the non-homestead tax exemptions and limitations would be pushed to 2023.

Amendment 9 – This would grant a full property tax exemption to the surviving spouses of military veterans who die while on active duty and to the surviving spouses of first responders who die in the line of duty. Military spouses already have this full exemption but it’s only in state statute. This expands the benefit to surviving spouses of police, firefighters, and emergency responders and places it permanently in the constitution.

Amendment 10 – This doubles the exemption from $25,000 to $50,000 for individuals and businesses that pay tangible personal property taxes. It also gives local governments the ability to further expand the personal property tax exemptions.

Amendment 11 – Senior citizens are already receive an additional exemption. But this amendment gives additional exemptions to low-income seniors who have lived in their home for more than 25 years.

To read more about all 11 Florida Constitutional Amendments on the ballot, including the pros and cons of each measure, go to the Collins Center 2012 Proposed Constitutional Amendments website.

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Florida Matters tackles tough issues, highlights little-known stories from our part of the world, and provides a greater perspective of what it means to live in the Sunshine State.

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