Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Carmel on the Case: Tax Trouble
We've all heard there are only two guarantees in life - death and taxes. Well some South Florida property owners know they can't avoid death. But they're doing their best to avoid taxes. Investigative reporter Carmel Cafiero shows us how they're getting caught in tonight's Carmel On The Case.
WSVN--This hunk of land in Broward County may not look like much, but if you believe a Miami church, it's being used for religious purposes.
Same thing with this land here. It may look like just a couple of lonely swings, but another group insists these empty lots also serve a religious purpose.
And because of it, both wanted tax exemptions but didn't get them due to a county crackdown.
Lori Parrish: "I thought I'd heard everything until I became property appraiser."
Lori parrish has been in the property appraisers position for about 17 months.
Since then she's put billions of dollars worth of property on the tax rolls.
Lori Parrish: "Several billion - yeah."
Carmel Cafiero: "So I would guess you've earned your keep so far."
Lori Parrish: "I would think so - yeah."
For starters - the property appraiser's office found hundreds of condos, shopping centers, industrial parks, even new homes from one end of Broward to the other that had never ever been taxed.
At this home in Ft. Lauderdale, fraud investigators found the owner passed away, but the twenty-five thousand dollar homestead exemption was still being claimed.
Ron Cacciatore: "And we ended up back taxing this home over 28 thousand dollars in penalties and interest."
Ron Cacciatore runs the fraud unit.
He says investigators wanted to check out another omestead exemption claim., this time in Sunrise.
Inside, they found a Peruvian restaurant.
They took pictures of tables in the living room, even saw a menu.
The exemption was eventually revoked and it appears the restauarant is no longer operating.
But at its peak last month, the place was packed.
Rita Perricone: "I went out, when I came back I couldn't even park in my own parking."
Carmel Cafiero: "It was that crowded?"
Rita Perricone: "They were parking in my parking."
Carmel Cafiero: "What did you think of that?"
Rita Perricone: "Well I was upset."
But it's not just private home owners.
Remember the Miami church claimiing these seven acres in Parkland?
Ron Cacciatore: "They put on the application it's used for religious services and for parking."
Carmel Cafiero: "So I take it their application was denied."
Ron Cacciatore: "Oh it's a hundred per cent denied."
Then there's this house along the new river in Fort Lauderdale.
According to the man who lives here, it's no longer a home, it's a church too.
Lori Parish: "But we all know what a real church or a real mosque or a real temple is. I mean we know what that is. What has happened of late is there are several people attempting to say their homes are churches."
Carmel Cafiero: "Parrish tried and failed to convince legislators the exemption isn't fair to average taxpayers who pay their fair share of taxes. So she says she'll take the case to the public and try to get the issue on the ballot in 2008."
If You Have A Story For Carmel:
Call her in Dade at 305-627-CLUE
Or in Broward at 954-921-CLUE