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Amendment 4 Would Cut Property Taxes for Florida Landowners

If you’re a registered voter in Florida and a landowner as well, there is an important amendment on this November’s ballot you need to be aware of. Amendment 4 could significantly reduce your tax liability, provided you set aside your land for conservation

If you’re a registered voter in Florida and a landowner as well, there is an important amendment on this November’s ballot you need to be aware of. Amendment 4 could significantly reduce your tax liability, provided you set aside your land for conservation purposes.

The Land Report has addressed agricultural exemptions before, but Amendment 4 could simplify the process for many Florida landowners.

The St. Petersburg Times reports on Amendment 4 in this morning’s edition and says that the plan has many positives, but still leaves open a window for some to reduce tax burdens for shorter periods of time. The main concern is that massive landowners in Florida, like St. Joe, could set aside land for “conservation” until the housing market comes back and property values return to previous levels.

According to the report, which cites an independt analysis from TaxWatch, there are two provisions to the amendment.

The first is similar to an easement where a landowner designates conservation land in “perpetuity.”

The report then addresses the second provision.

“The second, and less noticed provision, would reduce property taxes for owners who agree to set aside their land for a shorter period of time. Property appraisers would have to assess the parcel based on “character of use,” not its full potential.

That could be a great advantage to landowners such as St. Joe Co. The company’s lobbyist was a key player in getting the measure on the ballot.”

According to the report many advocates are pushing minimum requirements of 10 years for the short-term tax breaks.

In Trey Garrison’s report on agricultural exemptions, he pointed out how easy it is for some landowners to get tax breaks with only a few cows or pine trees.

John Meshad, a Sarasota attorney who owns more than 50 acres with an appraised value greater than $5 million, could have been assessed at more than $95,000. But because he maintains cattle on the land, his tax liability in 2006 was less than $5,000. Harry French, a part-time Boca Raton resident with significant holdings just a stone’s throw from the Gulf of Mexico, initially had a tax liability of about $50,000. But because he planted coconut palm trees, his tax bill is now less than $100.

Minimum requirements could eliminate a year-over-year shuffle of agriculturally exempt properties.

According to BallotPedia.org

Florida Amendment 4 would amend the Florida Constitution to require the state legislature to make a property tax exemption for property which is under perpetual conservation protection (as defined by general law). It also requires the legislature to provide classification and assessment of land use for conservation. This would apply to property taxes beginning in 2010.

Several groups have come out in favor of the amendment including the Nature Conservancy.

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Posted in Cattle, Farming, Feature, South, Taxes

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