“In Polk, we are vacation home-heavy,” said Dukes, director of economic development for the office of Polk County Tax Collector Joe Tedder.
The bad news, he said, is that vacation homes – or fully furnished houses marketed to tourists on a short term basis – often times are run by small companies, or simply by individual owners, who don’t take the time to follow the law – and are not in compliance with tax rules.
“Our biggest problem is with those homes not with management companies, and those are the biggest ones in non-compliance,” he said.
In fact, it would be better, he said, if those vacation home owners actually hired a property management firm to oversee operations, he said.
“We try to steer them into management companies,” Dukes said.
Dukes joined representatives from the Osceola and Lake County Tax Collector’s offices on Thursday to meet with the Central Florida Vacation Rental Managers Association, the trade group that represents managers of vacation homes.
The group held its monthly meeting at WonderWorks.
The industry has every reason to want to follow the rules and regulations of each county, said David Leather, past president of CFVRMA, who operates Hayes Vacation Homes in Kissimmee.
That’s why the association started a certification program, as an online exam that members can take. If they pass, they become fully certified to operate within this field.
”Go online, register, and start doing these modules, because what we have here is a good education,” Leather said.
Dukes joined Bruce Vickers, a principal with the Osceola County Tax Collector’s Office, and Cathy Adrid, accounting manager for the Tax Collector’s Office in Lake County, at the meeting.
Often times, Dukes said, small business owners don’t understand business tax receipts – a county tax paid for the privilege of operating a local company.
“We get all of the same questions regarding business tax receipts,” he said. If they don’t understand it, he added, they sometimes simply won’t pay it.
The Tax Collector’s office, he said, will be happy to sit down with the business owner and educate them.
“Education is paramount,” Dukes said. “If you visit our Web site, you will find that we have developed a number of documents that we call technical advisories.”
Adrid agreed, saying “Education is very important to us. We encourage you to contact us. We encourage anyone with questions to call us. I think the most common question we get is how to get started. We’d much rather have questions at the back end than at the front end.”
“I have two tax specialists and a business tax specialist,” Vickers said. “And they sit down with you and go over everything. Our tax collector is a big proponent of education. We try to get out of the office as much as we can and get to you.”
That’s true of the vacation home industry, Dukes said, which has grown at a speedy rate in Northeast Polk County, particularly off U.S. 27, in the past decade.
“We wanted to know what we could do to help our clients become more compliant with Florida tax statutes,” Dukes said. “There is an education arm of the Tax Collector’s Office, so we can get information out to this industry.”
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