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
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
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.
-- Tom Gallagher
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
“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.
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
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
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.
CREDITS FOR INDIVIDUALS WHO MAKE THEIR
HOMES MORE ENERGY EFFICIENT
A recent tax law change provides a tax credit to
improve the energy efficiency of existing homes. The law provides a
10 percent credit for buying qualified energy efficiency
improvements. To qualify, a component must meet or exceed the
criteria established by the 2000 International Energy Conservation
Code (including supplements) and must be installed in the taxpayer’s
main home in the United States.
The following items are eligible:
Insulation systems that reduce heat loss/gain
Exterior windows (including skylights)
Exterior doors, metal roofs (meeting
applicable Energy Star requirements).
In addition, the law provides a credit for costs
relating to residential energy property expenses. To qualify as
residential energy property, the property must meet certification
requirements prescribed by the Secretary of the Treasury and must be
installed in the taxpayer’s main home in the United States.
The following items are eligible:
$50 for each advanced main air circulating
$150 for each qualified natural gas, propane,
or oil furnace or hot water heater
$300 for each item of qualified energy
The maximum credit for all taxable years is $500 –
no more than $200 of the credit can be attributable to expenses for
Additionally, the new law makes a credit available
to those who add qualified solar panels, solar water heating
equipment, or a fuel cell power plant to their homes in the United
States. In general, a qualified fuel cell power plant converts a
fuel into electricity using electrochemical means, has an
electricity –only generation efficiency of more than 30 percent and
generates at least 0.5 kilowatts of electricity. Taxpayers are
allowed one credit equal to 30 percent of the qualified investment
in a solar panel up to a maximum credit of $2,000, and another
equivalent credit for investing in a solar water heating system. No
part of either system can be used to heat a pool or hot tub.
Additionally, taxpayers are also allowed a 30
percent tax credit for the purchase of qualified fuel cell power
plants. The credit may not exceed $500 for each .5 kilowatt of
These items must be placed in service after Dec.
31, 2005 and before Jan. 1, 2008.
UNVEILS PROCEDURE ENABLING COMMERCIAL PROPERTY OWNERS TO QUALIFY FOR
ENERGY EFFICIENT DEDUCTION
The Internal Revenue Service issued a notice on how
commercial building owners or leaseholders can qualify for the tax
deduction for making their buildings energy efficient. The notice
establishes a process to certify the required energy savings in
order to claim the deduction.
The commercial building deduction, which was
enacted in the Energy Policy Act of 2005, allows taxpayers to deduct
the cost of energy-efficient property installed in commercial
The amount deductible may be as much as $1.80 per
square foot of building floor area for buildings that achieve a
50-percent energy savings target. The notice provides that buildings
below the 50-percent threshold may, nevertheless, qualify for a
deduction of up to 60 cents per square foot of building floor area
if they meet a 16⅔-percent energy savings target.
Before claiming the deduction, the taxpayer must
obtain a certification that the required energy savings will be
achieved. The notice prescribes the content of that certification
and the qualifications that must be met by the person providing the
The notice also announces that the Department of
Energy will create and maintain a public list of software that must
be used to calculate energy savings for purposes of providing the
certification. It also provides a process that software developers
must use if they desire to have their software included on that
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.
The phaseout period for a manufacturer begins with
the second calendar quarter after the calendar quarter in which the
manufacturer records its 60,000th sale. For the second and third
calendar quarters after the quarter in which the 60,000th vehicle is
sold, taxpayers may claim 50 percent of the credit. For the fourth
and fifth calendar quarters, taxpayers may claim 25 percent of the
credit. For quarters after that fifth quarter, taxpayers may not
claim the credit.
For example, F Company is a manufacturer of hybrid
motor vehicles, but not advanced lean burn technology motor
vehicles. F Company sells its 60,000th hybrid car on March 31, 2006.
Ms. Smith buys an F Company hybrid car on
June 30, 2006, and claims the full credit.
Ms. Maple buys an F Company hybrid car on
Dec. 31, 2006, and claims 50 percent of the credit.
Mr. Grey buys an F Company hybrid car on June
30, 2007, and claims 25 percent of the credit.
Mr. Green buys an F Company hybrid car on
July 1, 2007, and is unable to claim the credit, because the
credit has phased out for F Company vehicles.
Tax credits are available for purchasing certain
Fuel cell vehicles are propelled by power derived
from one or more cells which convert chemical energy directly into
electricity by combining oxygen with hydrogen fuel. For passenger
automobiles or light trucks, the maximum allowable credit is $12,000
but greater credits are available for heavier vehicles.
Alternative fuel vehicles include those fueled by
compressed natural gas, liquefied natural gas, liquefied petroleum
gas, hydrogen, and any liquid that is at least 85 percent methanol.
The maximum allowable credit for vehicles weighing 8,500 pounds or
less is $4,000.
Hybrid heavy trucks: For qualifying hybrid motor
vehicles weighing more than 8,500 pounds but not more than 14,000
pounds, the maximum allowable credit is $3,000. For qualifying
hybrid motor vehicles weighing more than 14,000 pounds but not more
than 26,000 pounds, the maximum allowable credit is $6,000. For
qualifying hybrid motor vehicles weighing more than 26,000, the
maximum allowable credit is $12,000.
WHEN I MISS MY MORTGAGE PAYMENTS?
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.
Both foreclosures and deficiency judgments could seriously affect
your ability to qualify for credit in the future. So you should
avoid foreclosure if possible.
Do not ignore letters from your lender. If you are having
problems making your payments, call or write to your lender's Loss
Mitigation Department without delay. Explain your situation and be
prepared to provide them with financial information, such as your
monthly income and expenses. Without this information, they may not
be able to help.
Stay in your home for now because you may not qualify for
assistance if you abandon your property.
housing counseling agency. Call
(800) 569-4287 or TDD (800) 877-8339 for the housing counseling
agency nearest you. These agencies are valuable resources that
frequently have information on services and programs offered by
government agencies as well as private and community organizations
that could help you. The housing counseling agency may also offer
credit counseling. These services are usually free of charge.