In a pair of unanimous opinions issued on March 20, 2014, the Florida Supreme Court approved of the county’s assessment and collection of ad valorem real property taxes for certain leaseholds on Santa Rosa Island. The Court found that Pensacola Beach leaseholders have “virtually all the benefits and burdens of ownership.” This effectively makes them the private owners subject to property taxation. The cases largely put to rest the decades long debate over beach leasehold taxes. Visit our website for more information and links to the two recent court opinions.
With these rulings, the tax collector will soon begin efforts to collect any outstanding property taxes. The beach leaseholders’ lawyers will seek a reasonable grace period before enforcement efforts begin and try to negotiate the assessed interest payments. The lawyers will also consider and advise us whether they will seek a rehearing by the Florida Supreme Court or whether they will continue to challenge the assessment of taxes on the land (the Court’s decision specifically address Pensacola Beach improvements and not land taxes). However, to avoid additional interest accruing or the sale of tax deeds, Pensacola Beach leaseholders should consult with tax professionals and prepare to pay any outstanding real property taxes due. And as the lawsuit challenging the 2013 taxes was late and likely will be dismissed, everyone should pay their 2013 property taxes by the March 31, deadline.
With these rulings, Pensacola Beach Advocates will invigorate its efforts to ensure Pensacola Beach leaseholders are not subject to a de facto double taxundefined from real property taxes and lease fees. We will work to eliminate the lease fees and obtain refunds of past double payments. We will talk to local leaders and continue to push the U.S. Senate to pass legislation like the Public Access and Lands Improvement Act (H.R. 2954) that would allow leaseholders to purchase their land fee simple, which passed the U.S. House of Representatives on Feb. 6, 2014.
Attend the PBA Town Hall meeting on April 14th to learn more.
The two opinions may be found here:
1108 Ariola v. Jones (Pensacola Beach improvements): http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2014/sc11-2231.pdf
Accardo v. Brown (Navarre Beach land and improvements): http://www.floridasupremecourt.org/decisions/2014/sc11-1445.pdf