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Tax collector sues Orlando Airport Authority over taxes

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ORLANDO, Florida – The Orange County Tax Collector’s Office is suing the Orlando Aviation Authority in response to nearly $ 3.5 million in unpaid taxes and fees.

What you need to know

  • Orange County’s tax collector is suing Orlando Airport
  • The county is targeting $ 3.4 million, which it says was owed as early as 2015
  • The statute of limitations should be introduced for some of the taxes, officials said
  • The GOAA says the county should have an argument with tenants, not the airport

The lawsuit, filed in the 9th Circuit Court this week, deals with unpaid taxes from 2015.

“We have been in talks with GOAA for more than a year so we couldn’t wait any longer,” said Scott Randolph, Orange County’s tax collector. “There is a statute of limitations, and one of those years would have ended this month if we hadn’t filed it.”

The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority (GOAA) is the government agency that oversees the control and operations of Orlando International Airport and Orlando Executive Airport.

The lawsuit states that GOAA is responsible for unpaid taxes, interest and fees of $ 3.4 million for the 2015-2019 tax years.

GOAA told Spectrum News that the taxes are owed by the airport’s tenants and not by the agency itself.

“The Greater Orlando Aviation Authority’s agreements with tenants stipulate that tenants must pay all ad valorem taxes levied on their rental space,” said Carolyn Fennell, senior director of public affairs and community relations at GOAA. “For most of the tax liability claimed, the tax collector sent tax returns to the tenants, not to GOAA. In fact, some of the tenants are denying the tax notices as is their right. The GOAA is not responsible for paying these taxes. “

The lawsuit filed in court includes the tax certificates in question, which indicate that they were sent to each of the tenants in their non-governmental corporate offices.

Randolph told Spectrum News that the GOAA is being named as a defendant because they ultimately own and lease the property.

Tenants in question include HMSHost, Villa Enterprises Management, and SSP America. While the latter companies did not respond to Spectrum News’ request for comment, HMSHost did.

“In 2015, our property tax increased fivefold for no reason or justification,” a spokesman for HMSHost said in a statement to Spectrum News. “We appealed and went through the appeal process against this increase while continuing to pay our fair share of property taxes each year. We are determined to ultimately find a solution in accordance with Orange County law. “

The company and Randolph disagree as to whether they have paid their “fair share” in recent years.

“Honestly, HMSHost didn’t even have good faith paid those taxes, which is kind of weird,” Randolph said.

In December, tax law attorneys warned the GOAA that they would file a lawsuit within weeks if taxes were not paid. The lawsuit was filed to ensure the company can continue to collect amounts owed once the litigation resolves HMSHost’s tax challenge, Randolph said.

It is not uncommon for real estate and business owners to challenge their tax charges in court.

While tax collectors are responsible for obtaining tax payments, tax rates are set by real estate appraisers.

Businesses large and small have filed lawsuits against the Orange County Property Appraiser’s Office in recent years. Companies like Disney, Universal, and the University of Central Florida are among those who have filed lawsuits to challenge their property tax bills.

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Janet Smith