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Unlicensed properties are ‘potentially increasing the cost burden on dutiful taxpayers.’

Florida TaxWatch is releasing a new report highlighting the pervasiveness of unlicensed vacation rentals and the toll they’ve taken on the state.

The Impact of Unlicensed Vacation Rentals on Florida’s Economy surmises at least 49,280 vacation rentals — more than 1 in 4 — in the state are unlicensed, and many are likely skirting federal, state and local taxes.

Florida TaxWatch estimates that unlicensed vacation rental activity from a single day in November 2023 could cost Florida between $1.8 million and $6.9 million in registration costs; between $1.2 and $5.5 million in recurring licensing fees; up to $32,000 in local option transient taxes; and up to $21.3 million in property taxes due to fraudulent homestead exemption claims.

“While vacation rental properties play a critical role in Florida’s tourism-driven economy, unlicensed vacation rentals have become all too common, posing a risk to the wellbeing of renters and, given the fraudulent withholding of tax dollars, potentially increasing the cost burden on dutiful taxpayers,” Florida TaxWatch President and CEO Dominic Calabro said.

“As the popularity of vacation rentals continues to grow, Florida TaxWatch encourages the state to develop policies that authorize the enforcement of current law and demand transparency and accountability moving forward. We offer our thorough research as a resource to help educate legislators and staff, members of the media, and other stakeholders about this issue and the clear and present need for reform.”

Florida TaxWatch’s report drops as lawmakers are once again considering legislation that aimed at tackling vacation rental issues — a Legislative Session staple for more than a decade now. The watchdog organization presented the report to lawmakers during a hearing for the Senate’s vacation rental proposal, SB 280 by Indian Rocks Beach Sen. Nick DiCeglie, which would weaken local governments’ ability to regulate rentals.

Should DiCeglie’s bill or the House’s proposal (HB 1537) gain traction, Florida TaxWatch is urging lawmakers to consider provisions that would create an environment more conducive to collecting taxes. Recommendations include a tracking system for rentals, requiring registration numbers be included in listings and creating a statewide framework for tax collection.

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