Saturday, February 23, 2008

How can the "Save-Our-Home" exemption hurt you?

You are so happy to be one of the privileged Florida taxpayers protected by the SOH (Save-Our-Homes) amendment.

You bought your home 25 years ago and while its value has tripled over the years, you have only seen an increase of about 50% in your tax bill.

We know that in 1992 Florida voters approved the S.O.H. amendment to the Florida constitution that limited the amount of value a homestead property could increase for tax calculation's purposes. The law limits assessment increases to 3% percent or the increase of the Consumer price Index - whichever is less.

During the last 5 years or so, while home values skyrocketed, you could only be touched by a maximum of 3% property tax increase.

Meanwhile new people buying in the neighborhood where paying three times as much as you, since their tax calculation was made on the value of the home at the time of the purchase.

Owners of vacation homes, or investment properties, which were not protected by SOH, were also hit by very high raises in their taxes.

Is this fair? No it's not, but the SOH is at least protecting part of property owners from the free spending habits of cities and counties, that is at the root of the problem.

Recent decisions of Florida legislature have tried to give a small break to homeowners by rolling back some tax increases. The erosion of home values during the last two years also lowered the assessed values of most properties. Owners of homes not protected by SOH could see at least some reprieve since cities and counties base their taxes on the assessed values. An increase of the homestead exemption gave homeowners the hope for another tax break. Or did it?

It was effectively a small break for some property owners paying high taxes.

In your case, your home also decreased in value during the last two years. However your next tax bills will still show a yearly 3% increase, as allowed by SOH.

Theoretically, if home values keep going down, or just stabilize during the next decade, you will gradually be eating up on the SOH benefits, at the rate of 3% per year, until they are completely neutralized.

Is this fair? Not exactly. How will this affect new buyers of homes, who will "transport" their S.O.H. tax advantage with them? It will take me some time to figure it out.

Is it a loophole in the "save-our-homes" provisions? Some legislators have ample knowledge of the issue. They affirmed that they will address it in the next Legislature session.

Meanwhile, it is just a curious twist on our already bizarre property tax system.

If you don't understand all the above, don't worry, just call me; we will figure it out together.

Henry B. Nathan is a Florida Realtor. Please visit my website

to search for Aventura Condos, Miami Condos, Sunny Isles Condos, Hollywood Condos

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