New appraiser aims to cut homestead exemption tax fraud

Incoming property appraiser says city loses out when people file false claims


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Jacksonville's new property appraiser is getting ready to crack down on people who are cheating on property taxes.

Jerry Holland, who just finished his term as Duval County supervisor of elections, will take over the job of county property appraiser in July. But he said he's already planning to investigate people who file false homestead exemptions claims.

That homestead exemption gives homeowners a hefty break on property taxes by lowering taxable property value by $50,000 on average. But the property has to be the taxpayer's primary home; it can't be rented out.

Holland said cracking down on those filing false home exemption claims will prevent the city from losing out on that tax revenue.

"We are also going to dwell on exemption fraud, especially homestead exemption," Holland said. "There are people who claim homestead exemption but are renting out their properties. Those kind of things can cost the city a lot of dollars."

Right now, the county has a staff of two inspectors who uncovered 68 cases of fraud in 2014 and 77 cases where people died and the family was still claiming the exemption on the home.

Over the years, that money adds up. From 2008 to 2014, over $7 million in liens have been filed to get people to pay taxes owed.

"I don't know if I would use the word rampant, but I think it can exist. I think it's one of those easy things to exist, unless you really go and verify it," Holland said. "What most of the people are doing is basically signing the exemption card. How often do we double check that? How do we verify those things in potential rental areas?"

Current property appraiser Jim Overton said Holland's plan makes sense.

"We do a lot of that already," Overton said. "But he is right there is discovery to be made out there. I think it's a good idea. It's a matter of fairness to the taxpayer."

Holland said he is going to inform the public of what he is doing before they begin the crackdown. He takes office July 1. 

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