At this writing, respondents to last week’s Quick Poll were neck-and-neck, with half believing the new property tax relief plan for Floridians is a great step toward state tax reform and the other half thinking it does more harm than good. Commentator James Hamilton Mikes, an attorney at Quarles & Brady LLP in Naples, examines both sides of the issue, saying the savings realized by homeowners could come at the expense of business owners and government services. He adds that not all owners of residential property will benefit from the perceived tax break. Here are Mikes’ thoughts:

“Supporters of the current tax system are pleased by the passage of Amendment 1. They have received a greater homestead exemption and portability of the Save Our Homes cap. On the other side, those seeking tax reform rather than relief are disappointed. Real tax reform was not presented to voters and the perceived unfairness of the current system has been exacerbated.

“The tax burden to business owners, snowbirds, new homeowners and those who have yet to attain homeownership will now be greater. The non-homestead property assessment cap of 10% per year is too high to result in any savings to these owners. The statutory millage cap of 10 mills is devoid of provisions that are necessary to prevent a shifting of the tax burden by local governments.

“For business enterprises, comprehensive property tax reductions would reduce the cost of capital investment. Existing Florida businesses would expand and other businesses would open in or relocate to the state. Amendment 1 creates no incentives for economic development or diversification.

“Despite the passage of Amendment 1, I hope that true tax reform can remain on the table for discussion. Our current tax system and Amendment 1 benefit only a select few.”

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