$47 Million Dollar Christmas Gift From Florida Legislature to Hurricane-impacted Residential Taxpayers

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Florida residential property taxpayers in areas affected by Hurricane Wilma have been given a bonus by the Florida legislature. Early payment discounts may be extended by county commissions for up to two months, a benefit worth as much as $47 million to eligible taxpayers.

South Florida taxpayers just got an extension of time on early-payment discounts for ad valorem real estate taxes.

The buffeting of South Florida by Hurricane Wilma delayed the mailing of tax bills to South Florida residents. To compensate for the delay, the Florida legislature is tacking extra time onto property tax early payment deadlines.

By offering a discount of 1% per month for payment prior to the April 1 annual delinquency date,early payment confers the equivalent of 1% interest on the moneys paid, or an annualized whopping rate of 12% per year.

Here's how it works. As this local option is adopted by the respective county commissions, residential property taxpayers will have longer to qualify for the early-payment discounts.

Ordinarily, real estate tax payments received by the county tax collector by November 30 qualify for a 4% discount; by December 31 for a 3% discount; by January 31 for a 2% discount; and by February 1 for a 1% discount.

Now, thanks to Florida’s legislature, the discount payment periods have been extended. Under the hurricane-driven relief measure, any county that has been declared a major disaster area approved for individual assistance by the President of the United States is authorized by affirmative vote of its governing body to adopt any or all of these options: 4% discount for payments made by January 31; 3% discount for payments received by February 28; 2% discount for paying by March 31.

No additional mailed notice by the tax collector is required by the statute.

All tax bills must still be paid by April 1 in order to avoid delinquent interest and penalties.

The early payment extension will be available only to taxpayers who directly pay their own tax bills. The 60% of residential property taxes paid institutional or other lenders (generally paid annually in November) are ineligible for the extension.

In a model of brevity and clarity, the legislature passed the measure on December 7 in a two-page document officially known as Senate Bill 10. The Act expires by its own terms April 1, 2006.

The Florida House of Representatives estimated the impact of the measure at some $47 million, assuming all eligible counties adopt the local option measure.

For additional information, visit the property tax blog of attorney Daniel A. Weiss at http://www.floridalawyerspropertytaxappeals.blogspot.com or his firm website at http://www.tannebaumweiss.com/property_tax.php. Weiss is a principal of Tannebaum Weiss, LLP, and a former Miami-Dade County, Florida, Assistant County Attorney who represented the county taxing authorities and now represents both taxpayers and municipalities.

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