Volume 3 Number 29
July 17, 2006

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Insurance is all about spreading risk, that's why it is important to think both short-term and long-term when it comes to planning for a potential storm or disaster.

Even though I no longer regulate insurance, I made recommendations this year regarding insurance reforms and am pleased that the Legislature adopted many of them, chief among them a measure saving homeowners millions of dollars on insurance bills. By using $715 million from the sales taxes paid during hurricane recovery, we're saving every homeowner from having to pay a 20 percent assessment on top of payments.

Equally as important, this department is overseeing a $250 million pilot program that will provide grant money to help homeowners get their homes inspected and storm-proofed. By strengthening your home to withstand future storms, you can reap an additional savings on your insurance premiums. To find out more about the mitigation program, visit www.mysafefloridahome.com.

Unfortunately, these reforms alone are not enough. That's why I am continuing to fight for the creation of a National Catastrophe Fund, much like the one I helped create here after Hurricane Andrew. Since 1993, the Florida Hurricane Catastrophe Fund is estimated to have saved Florida homeowners more than $20 billion in insurance costs.

I also believe the federal government should allow homeowners to build savings tax-free to cover items like insurance deductibles and uninsured damages if their home is ever hit by a storm.

We must continue to work to mitigate our risks, both at home and as a nation. It is a responsibility we all share.


 

 

Upcoming Auction

 

JACKSONVILLE UNCLAIMED PROPERTY AUCTION DRAWS 300

Nearly 300 people attended the state’s unclaimed property auction Saturday in Jacksonville and raised more than $616,000 for Florida’s public school children.  Tom Gallagher, Florida’s chief financial officer, said he was especially pleased that most of those who attended were “first timers.”

“That means more people are learning about the unclaimed property program,” Gallagher said.  “We set a new record last fiscal year by returning more than $100 million worth of cash and property to owners and heirs from nearly 227,000 accounts, and we intend to build on that success.”

More than 488 lots – some 32,000 items – were sold at the day-long auction, held at the Embassy Suites Hotel.  A men’s 2.35-carat diamond ring drew the highest bid at $14,000.

A signed Babe Ruth photograph went for $3,000. 

The auction items were turned over to the state from abandoned safe deposit boxes. The Department of Financial Services, which Gallagher oversees, currently holds unclaimed property accounts valued at more than $1 billion, and has transferred more than $1.5 billion to the state’s school trust fund.

In addition to money and securities, unclaimed property includes tangible property such as watches, jewelry, coins, currency, stamps, historical items and other miscellaneous articles.

Another auction will be held Aug. 25-26 in Tampa.

Claiming money or property turned over to the state is free, and at any time owners or their heirs can claim the money the items earn at auction. The department also has a website, www.FLtreasurehunt.org, where owners or heirs can regularly check to see if the state is holding unclaimed property for them. They can also check by calling 1-88-VALUABLE.


 

 

TAX CREDITS FOR IMPROVEMENTS THAT WILL STRENGTHEN YOUR HOME

The IRS is giving tax credits for many types of home improvements including adding insulation, replacement windows, and certain high efficiency heating and cooling equipment.  The maximum amount of homeowner credit for all improvements combined is $500 during the two-year period of the tax credit. This tax credit applies to improvements made from January 1, 2006 through December 31, 2007.

Highlights of the energy policy act of 2005 for individuals

During 2006, individuals can make energy-conscious purchases that will provide tax benefits when filling out their tax returns next year. The new law provides tax credits for making your principal residence, which must be in the United States, more energy efficient and for buying certain energy efficient items. At the same time the law provides credits for various types of alternative motor vehicles, including hybrids.  CONTINUED



 

TAX CREDIT AVAILABLE FOR TAXPAYERS WHO PURCHASE OR LEASE HYBRID VEHICLES

The tax credit for hybrid vehicles, which was enacted by the Energy Policy Act of 2005, may be as much as $3,400 for those who purchase the most fuel-efficient passenger automobiles and light trucks.

Hybrid vehicles have drive trains powered by both an internal combustion engine and a rechargeable battery. Many currently available hybrid vehicles may qualify for the tax credit.

Since taxpayers may claim the full amount of the allowable credit only up to the end of the first calendar quarter after the quarter in which the manufacturer records its sale of the 60,000th hybrid and/or advanced lean-burn technology motor vehicle, consumers seeking the credit may want to buy early in the year.
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WHAT HAPPENS WHEN I MISS MY MORTGAGE PAYMENTS?

With an increase in calls from people regarding foreclosure, the Department of Financial Services is aware of the problems that can occur when cash is tight.  Due to the rise in interest rates and the cost of homeowners insurance, Florida could have a record number of mortgage foreclosures in the next few years.

If you get behind and miss mortgage payments, foreclosure may occur. This is the legal means that your lender can use to repossess (take over) your home. When this happens, you must move out of your house. If your property is worth less than the total amount you owe on your mortgage loan, a deficiency judgment could be pursued. If that happens, you not only lose your home, you also would owe your lender an additional amount. CONTINUED