Florida County recovers $550 million in property tax fraud other counties and cities to follow

Orange County announced the recovery of more than $550 million related to property tax fraud in Orange County, Florida. The money comes from property owners who wrongfully applied for property tax exemptions when they did not qualify, primarily Florida’s Homestead Tax exemption.

Under Florida law , a property owner may   receive a homestead exemption up to $50,000 on the assessed value of his or her permanent residence or the permanent residence of his or her dependent. A corporate taxpayer may not claim the homestead exemption, and only one exemption is allowed per taxpayer, including a tax exemption or tax credit claimed in another state.

Some property owners tried to beat the system and claim more of an exemption than they are entitled. To try and beat them at their own game, Singh hired three former law enforcement professionals to investigate property owners suspected of cheating. The County started a fraud hotline for citizens to report suspicious properties, resulting in the recovery of the hundreds of millions of dollars. The Exemption Fraud Hotline,  allows taxpayers to report suspected fraud anonymously.

“Counties everywhere should invest in diligent investigative work and make it a top priority to catch those that cheat the system,” said Singh. “That way our communities receive the funding they need to provide vital services to their citizens, like law enforcement, fire, EMS, and schools, and honest taxpayers don’t pick up the burden left by individuals or businesses that break the rules.”

Jeffrey Newman represents whistleblowers