Fasano: Fake farmland is costing taxpayers - FOX 13 News

Fasano: Fake farmland is costing taxpayers

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NEW PORT RICHEY (FOX 13) -

Pasco County Tax Collector Mike Fasano said property owners are getting agricultural tax breaks who do not actively farm their land. He said it's a problem that's burning citizens in his county and across the state.

"No one investigates, and sadly, the taxpayers are the ones who lose in the end," said Fasano. "But unfortunately the ways the laws are written, this is what happens. This is what you get."

He cited a parcel across from his former legislative office as an example. The land is valued at $1.6-million. With the tax break, the owner only pays $200 a year in taxes.

Fasano claims the land has not been farmed in years. And by phone, the owner could not tell us the last time a tree had been planted or harvested on the parcel.

Fasano said that's one example of several in his county and many across the state.

"You're probably looking at $100-million-plus in revenue lost each year," continued Fasano.

"It is ridiculous that we have these properties out here in this day and age. They have the ability to tell whether a property is being used for an exempt purpose or not," said Pasco farmer Amy Baird.

Baird runs a Pasco horse farm and says she does farm work seven days a week to earn her tax break.

State Representative Amanda Murphy said she is also concerned about properties that receive agricultural exemptions but do not appear to be used for farming.

"How many deputies are not being funded because that property is sitting there on the books for the wrong classification?" she asked.

But changing the law by requiring more oversight of tax-exempt farmland may not be easy. Fasano said the powerful agricultural lobby resisted his efforts to reform the law.

"We found we got no support whatsoever in Tallahassee...If even part of the law begins to change, they're very concerned the Legislature may go deeper in taking away even more exemptions."

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