New Law Protects Nonprofits From Surprise Tax Bills

Todays News

Rendering of Michaels on the Bay at Selby Gardens.

Gov. Ron DeSantis signed legislation into law that will remove anxiety nonprofits may feel when the tax bills come in. State Sen. Joe Gruters, R-Sarasota, sponsored the legislation this year after the Sarasota Property Appraiser’s Office said Marie Selby Botanical Gardens would need to pay tax on its entire property as if it were a for-profit business.

Gruters’ legislation makes clear only a portion of property being used for a private sector venture, such as a separate gift shop, can be taxed. In the case of Selby Gardens, that means Sarasota may start charging property taxes on land being used by a privately-run restaurant on property, but the land willed by Sarasota matriarch Marie Selby as a garden space for the community to enjoy will remain exempt from any levy.

“All nonprofits in the state are going to be excited,” Gruters said.

Leadership at Selby Gardens praised the passage of the bill. ““This legislation reaffirms that accessory uses will not put any other nonprofits’ property tax exemption at risk, and the fact that it passed unanimously through committee with such broad bipartisan support confirms what we have been saying all along,” said Jennifer Rominecki, Selby Gardens’ president and CEO. “Regardless of incidental accessory uses, when you are putting revenues back into your mission and back into your community, your property should remain tax exempt. This important legislation would not have been possible without Sen. Joe Gruters’ leadership, and we are deeply grateful to Gov. DeSantis for signing it into law.”

While the legislative fix was inspired by the dispute at Selby Gardens, it impacts some 94,000 nonprofits statewide. Gruters said that’s important so the mission of these organizations doesn’t stop over a tax burden. The issue, he said, is these nonprofits gather expertise in science, social work or any number of arenas that benefit society, but often must rely on different types of skills for fundraising.

“These nonprofits are good certain things, but flipping burgers is probably not one of the things they are good at,” he said. The nonprofits don’t get into the business of warming sandwiches and selling souvenirs to profit, Gruters said, but to meet their bottom line.

“My thing is, if they want to outsource flipping burgers, let them do that,” he said.

Gruters said in the Sarasota dispute, he doesn’t begrudge the Property Appraiser’s Office for aiming to assess taxes on the property. Rather, the situation showed a lack of clarity in Florida tax law. Ultimately, the change was supported by property appraisers in the state.

Rendering of Michaels on the Bay at Selby Gardens.

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