Property Taxes

Fall 2007 CSANews Issue 64  |  Posted date : Oct 17, 2007.Back to list

Dear Bird Talk,

I have just read Peter Benedek's column and, being a property-owning snowbird who keeps up to date with such issues, I am well aware of this matter. It is sad indeed.

My wife and I own a house in Florida, and even though I know that renters and other vacationers are also affected by the recent legislation, I suspect there is a rather small number of Canadian snowbirds who pay property taxes on homes over the 12 months, year after year. Paying property taxes which are buried in the cost of a hotel room or house rental charge is one thing. Paying property taxes on a house, when your American neighbour with the same house pays a small percentage of your costs is quite another.

Florida has a population of more than 18 million, 11 million of whom are eligible to vote. More than eight million of them recently turned out and voted for property tax decreases for homesteaders, meaning themselves.

I know that there are many Americans snowbirds who are also affected by this legislation and they must be as upset as we are.

So I have two questions: Do you know how many Canadian property owners, and separately, American (snowbird) property owners, own homes in Florida? What positive impact do you think this number could have on Florida legislators and, more importantly, Florida voters, most of whom just voted to have their property taxes decreased?

Sincerely,
Gary Harding


Response:
Canadian snowbirds who OWN homes in Florida number in the hundreds of thousands. It is very difficult to get the actual count due to corporation and nominee ownership. In previous years, accountants would recommend setting up a Florida corporation for estate tax purposes and many homes and condos are still registered in this way. This is apparently not the best tax strategy today, however. Several million homes in Florida are owned by out-of-state U.S. residents. Snowbirds make up the majority, but the Florida tax code does not allow the seizure of your personal home in the event of bankruptcy and this has attracted many ”resident/non-residents” who choose to call Florida their home for business reasons. I do not know if we can ever overcome these unfair tax issues but we must talk about it with governments on an ongoing basis. Snowbirds represent literally billions of dollars to the Florida economy, but with millions of baby boomers searching for vacation properties, any threat to stop visiting will fall on deaf ears. This is an uphill battle and, of interest, it is exactly the same reason why travel medical insurance costs are so high. Residents of all of the southern states want lower taxes and lower medical costs; they partially achieve this through transferring costs to out-of-state and Canadian visitors. I bet you have had a speeding ticket in one of the “tax-visitor” speed zones – same thing. YUK!