Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Judge: Beach Businesses Subject to Taxation

Pensacola Beach businesses are subject to real estate taxation on their commercial leaseholds even if they do not have title to the real estate or buildings, Escambia County circuit court judge Nick Geeker ruled yesterday. The decision directly affects many of the approximately one hundred hotel, restaurant, and souvenir shops on the beach.

Still pending are lawsuits brought by home and condo residents who are also challenging renewed efforts by Escambia County to impose real estate taxes on occupants of the island, which is titled in the county's name. Whatever the outcome of the suits, the issue is unlikely to be resolved until all appeals are exhausted over the next two years.

As reporter Derek Pivnick writes in today's PNJ:
It's the first loss in the court battle against property taxes on structures -- homes, businesses and condominiums -- on the beach.
* * *
If the ruling is upheld on appeal, it could mean a substantial influx of tax money for Escambia County. More than $12 million in taxes remains unpaid, according to Escambia County Tax Collector Janet Holley's office.
June Guerra, owner of the still-closed Jubilee Restaurant, spoke for many when she told the News Journal, "The county's taxation is going to be the downfall of the island."

If not a downfall, certainly a radical change. Businesses, unlike residents, can always pass the added expense of real estate taxes onto their customers. As prices escalate, fewer local mainlanders will be able to afford beach accommodations, restaurant meals and beverages, and other goods and services.

Over time, many believe, raising the cost of having a business or home on Pensacola Beach will price the average family out of the market -- both as day visitors and as potential home owners. To survive, properties will have to convert to more high rises, greater density, and higher prices.

Mainlanders and politicians who are applauding today's ruling could well find themselves unable to afford a visit to the beach tomorrow.

South Florida -- here we come.

Additional Links

Beach Leaseholders' Lawsuit Filed (Dec. 21, 2004)

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The PNJ article does not mention anything about "real estate".
The article is about property taxes on the structures, not the land. "Real estate" is considered to be land with or without buildings.

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