JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The city of Jacksonville has begun a $17 million crackdown on people who may be cheating on their property taxes by filing false homestead exemption claims.
Jacksonville's new property appraiser, Jerry Holland, said there are nearly 3,500 people in Jacksonville who may be breaking the law by not paying their fair share though a small portion of them may not even know they're breaking the law.
What the crackdown is aiming for though is to catch homeowners who claim a false homestead credit for their property which to receive, requires a homeowner to live in the home, claim it as their main home and not rent the house.
The crackdown is city wide but a lot of attention is being paid to property at the beaches like, for example, two beach front condos in one building which are owned by people who claim they are their main homes.
Investigators said they found those families are also claiming property out of state as their main homes and taking a tax break on those as well.
One of those homeowners, calling from Georgia said it was a mistake and that they didn't know homestead was claimed for both.
It's an expensive mistake as there is now a $22,000 lien on their property in Jacksonville.
"Part of this is to really make sure that all taxpayers are doing what they properly should," Holland said.
He said the city is now looking at hiring a company to help with the fraud investigation and will be checking to see that the 184,000 or more homes in Duval County are in compliance.
They estimate $17 million will be collected within the next four years and that once the liens are paid, an additional $4 million will be added to the tax rolls each year.
Holland also pointed out that if a homeowner rents a room in their house and they still live there they still can't claim a full tax credit.
"If you rent out a room there's partial exemption on the part of your house that is rented out so you can still get a partial exemption. But again, if you're renting that property out and not living there, that may be a problem," Holland said.
Most homeowners, like Roosevelt Washington, have said that they think the crack down is fair.
"It's a long time coming, they should've been doing it. The fact is people getting houses and renting them out to anybody. They need to pay. They're putting money in their pocket and we have a community here and the community needs the money," Washington said.
Holland also said the city has a hotline if someone suspect fraud that can be reached at 904-630-7112.