The Duval County Property Appraiser is cracking down on homestead exemption fraud.
Homeowners in Florida can claim a deduction of up to $50,000 on their primary residence. But Duval Property Appraiser Jerry Holland, who took office in 2015, said problems can arise when people use apps like AirBnB to rent out their homes while still claiming the exemption.
“So I really beefed up that area of our office going after those who are not in compliance. And what that means is you can’t always prove fraud,” he said. “That’s the intent to do something illegal, but sometimes people are not in compliance because they filed for something they weren’t entitled to.”
That could mean owners have a homestead in another state, which is why last year Holland hired Tax Management Associates and LexisNexis Risk Solutions to help tackle homestead fraud exemptions. The firms use public records databases from across the country to find homeowners who may be gaming the system.
So far, they have identified more than 500 fraudulent accounts totaling $2.358 million in taxes. Holland said his office can go back up to 10 years.
Holland said his office has also identified an additional 2,300 fraudulent accounts, which has yielded $14 million the city in back taxes.
“We can bill you for the differences in taxes between have an exemption and not having an exemption. Plus, you have a 50% penalty on top of that, plus you pay 15% interest for each year you owe that money,” he said.
Holland said the biggest lien he's seen is more than $600,000, but most are between $6,000 to $10,000.
In addition to hiring the outside firms, Holland said he doubled his staff to tackle the problem.