A property-tax amendment primer

Published: Sunday, January 20, 2008 at 6:01 a.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, January 19, 2008 at 3:13 p.m.

Portrayed by Gov. Charlie Crist and other supporters as a simple chance to cut property taxes, Amendment One - the only statewide measure on the Jan. 29 ballot - is not as clear-cut as supporters say. Here is a breakdown of what the plan would do. The measure needs 60 percent approval:

Homestead exemption: Contrary to Crist's promise, Amendment One increases but does not double the value of the state's $25,000 homestead exemption since education and lower-valued homes are exempted. The increase is estimated to be worth about $240 annually to the average homeowner.

Current situation: You own a home with an assessed value of $250,000. You would keep the current exemption of the first $25,000 of assessed value and receive an additional exemption of $25,000 that would not apply to the education funding, about 40 percent of your tax bill.

Current situation: You own a home with an assessed value of $50,000. You would keep the current exemption of $25,000 but would not be eligible for the new exemption which does not kick in until assessed values over $50,000.

Current situation: You own a business property or a part-time residence. Neither the current nor proposed homestead exemption applies.

Breaks for businesses, part-time residents If approved, businesses and some mobile home owners would receive a $25,000 exemption for their tangible personal property.

Businesses annually pay the tax on their equipment, furniture, computers and other assets. Some mobile homeowners pay the tax on carports, sheds and other attachments to their property.

If passed, more than 1 million businesses would be exempted from paying the tax. The average savings is $450.

Non-homestead property owners would be able to apply for a 10 percent assessment cap on their properties. It would be similar but not as stringent as the 3 percent assessment cap enjoyed by homeowners under the state's Save Our Homes initiative.

Critics say the 10 percent cap is too high to do much good for many non-homestead properties.

Supporters hail it as the first step in giving businesses and other non-homestead properties some protection from excessively high annual assessments.

Save Our Homes: The so-called "portability" included in the Jan. 29 property tax cut referendum would benefit those Floridians who have lived in the state the longest, as well as those who have lived in coastal areas where home values have escalated dramatically since the house was purchased.

Assume your home has a market value of $300,000 but the annual Save Our Homes cap of 3 percent in annual increases means you're paying taxes on an assessed value of $150,000. Under current law if you move within Florida, you lose your Save Our Homes tax break and the 3 percent cap resets.

Under Amendment One:

* If you move to a home of greater value - say $400,000 - you will keep the $150,000 in accrued Save Our Homes benefits, reducing your assessed value to $250,000. Homestead exemptions would also apply.

* If you move to a home of lesser value - for example a $200,000 home - you will keep the 50 percent in Save Our Homes benefits from on your old home and your assessed value will be $100,000 before homestead exemptions are applied.

The portability would apply to any move within the state. First-time homeowners in Florida, part-time residents and businesses would not benefit from the portability plan. It would retroactively apply to any home purchases made in 2007.

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