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She'll say it once more: The Big Lie is one

Published Oct. 18, 2005

Indulge me, if you will, to once more refute The Big Lie, with concrete numbers from the Florida Department of Revenue. The Big Lie says that 65 to 75 percent of the people who live here pay no county property taxes. The Lie shows up in letters to the editor, on photocopied sheets passed out at political rallies and, if it comes across my desk, it is crumbled into a ball and bounced off the nearest wall.

The Lie is like one of those "urban legends" that float by from time to time, the stories that seem to spring up spontaneously all over everywhere at the same time. This one usually has someone who "was given these figures by a tax assessor." Funny thing, no one ever can recall the name or location of this all-knowing tax assessor.

Now for the Big Provable Truth.

The hard figures gathered from across the entire state show that out of all the parcels everywhere, only 3.9 percent are totally off the tax rolls because of homestead exemptions.

When it comes to the value of these little bits of property, it amounts to _ read my lips _ only 1.06 percent of the assessed value of the state's property.

In other words, all those untaxed "freeloaders" the curmudgeons love to rant and rave about own an inconsequential, insignificant 1.06 percent of the assessed value of the state's property.

In Hernando County, out of 95,834 parcels on the tax rolls, 3,200 don't pay any property taxes because of homestead exemption. That is 3.34 percent.

The value of these 3,200 parcels makes up just 1.94 percent of the assessed value of all the property in the county.

Of course, there are lots of people who have partial exemptions. In fact, about two-thirds of the homes in Hernando County qualify for homestead exemptions. But 87.5 percent of people with homestead exemptions still pay property taxes on the assessed value above the $25,000 exemption.

I keep noticing that when I check out the people who are always bellowing about freeloaders, it turns out these people usually take advantage of the homestead exemption themselves _ as well they should.

If people are really incensed about the poor folks who don't pay any taxes, I suggest they organize a campaign to do away with homestead exemptions altogether. Of course, that has been tried and turned down flat.

Better yet, the complainers who are miffed because some people don't pay property taxes should move out of their pricey homes and into shanties so they can get out of paying taxes, too.