Over the last several years, local government officials say that schools, public safety, roads and local projects are being defrauded by homeowners under the homestead exemption.
Several Florida property appraisers have weighed in on the matter with Duval County Property Appraiser Jerry Holland leading the charge.
“There are a number of property owners who are filing for homestead exemption when they do not qualify for the benefit,” Holland said.
Holland told Florida Daily that his office found more than 2,300 cases of taxpayers who own property that had exemptions they weren’t entitled to–and it is costing the taxpayers.
In 2017, Holland said his goal was to recoup $5 million in back property taxes in the county. So far, more than $8 million has been collected. Currently, Holland said, there are still around 2,300 cases with around $13 million in back taxes, interest and penalties. Holland’s office maintained if all local property owners paid their fair share of taxes, it would add an additional $38 million in property value to the tax rolls.
The Florida Association of Property Appraisers noted when it comes to homestead exemption fraud, one of the main concerns is that people who own multiple homes are lying about where they live in order to keep money in their pockets.
Luxury home specialist Anita Hiles, who hosts a radio show about real estate, said homestead exemptions are rarely black and white.
“It can be confusing at times,” Hiles said. “Yes, some people aren’t telling the truth about what homes they own but there are others who are just confused about how the exemption works.
“I’ve said this on my radio show,” she added. “If a residence is not your permanent house, you can’t claim homestead exemption.”
Experts say if a homeowner is in violation on homestead exemptions, they can owe thousands in back taxes, penalties and interest regardless of whether they are “receiving or claiming” another state’s exemption or credit knowingly and willfully. The same holds true even when a homeowner makes an honest mistake on the matter.
If so, the penalties in Florida can be severe. The homeowner would have their “Save Our Homes” benefit revoked, forced to pay back taxes, including a 50 percent penalty and 15 percent interest for any year or years within the prior decade that the exemption was fraudulently claimed.
Holland offered a warning on the matter.
“If you have applied for a homestead exemption that you do not qualify for, they will eventually get you,” Holland said.
Contact Ed at Ed.Dean@FloridaDaily.com.