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My Florida C F O
Weekly eNewsletter from Florida's Chief Financial Officer

Dear Fellow Floridian:

Few nations in history have fought harder to protect and preserve their freedom than the United States of America, and every American citizen is intrinsically tied to a centuries-old passion for safeguarding that freedom. That very same freedom affords us the right to cast our vote to elect our national, state and local leaders.

Our right to vote is a constitutional power that rests in the hands of all American citizens. Sovereignty lies with the people in our country; we have the power to choose the course of our state and nation. The magnitude of this responsibility transcends any other decision we might make. For our president, our congresswomen and men and our state legislators who manage the finances of government—they have the power to raise or lower our debt or our taxes, to promote transparency and to advance policies that chart the course for our I votedstate and nation. The right to vote is one we should not take for granted.

As you go to the polls, remember you are carrying on the tradition of many great Americans who have come before you. On Election Day, you are the embodiment of their dreams. You are the posterity for which they pledged their lives, their fortunes and their sacred honor. I cherish that sacrifice and my freedom. Join me on Tuesday to exercise your right to vote.

Jeff Atwater
Jeff Atwater
Chief Financial Officer
State of Florida

A Tax Guide for Small Business Owners

Negotiating the tax system can be as difficult as traversing a labyrinth, but the Department of Financial Services is working to educate and help small business owners expand their financial ventures. The Small Business Tax Saving Strategies for the 2012 and 2013 Tax Years webinar provided a venue of learning and guidance to Florida's entrepreneurs.

The former president of the Central Florida chapter of the Florida Institute of CPAs, T. Shepard Burr, presented tax incentive opportunities for small business owners in 2012 and 2013. Topics during the webinars included tips on reducing taxes, lowering expenses, timing for needed capital improvements, potential impacts of the health care changes and expiration of tax cuts. Drawing on his expertise as a CPA for 40 years, Burr educated small business owners about theFICPA and DFS Consumer Services necessity of year-round tax management, deducting business expenses and future planning.

If you missed it live, the webinar is available on the Your Money Matter$ Small Business Page.

Unclaimed Property Phone Bank Event

During an Unclaimed Property phone bank held in conjunction with ABC 25 in West Palm Beach Thursday, CFO Atwater’s Bureau of Unclaimed Property was able to return more than $199,319 to 797 Florida consumers. Eight representatives from the bureau were on hand to take calls. In the 12 hours after the phone bank, the Unclaimed Property website had 6,949 visits to the website. FLTreasureHunt.org, 1-88-Valuable

The bureau is proactive and diligent in its efforts to reconnect Floridians with their lost or forgotten property. Since CFO Atwater took office, records have been broken by putting more than $375 million back in the hands of Floridians. But there is currently an estimated $1 billion in unclaimed property accounts waiting for the rightful owners. Search www.fltreasurehunt.org or call 1-88-VALUABLE to see if you have an unclaimed property account. And remember, there is no charge to claim your unclaimed property from the state, nor is there a statute of limitations; citizens have the right to claim their property at any time.

News of Interest

University of Florida News: Florida’s consumer confidence remains at near post-recession high

Orlando Business Journal: Florida exports up 7.1% in August

Palm Beach Post: Fort Lauderdale boat show ends on high note for many

South Florida Sun-Sentinel: Biotech companies, investors head to Palm Beach

South Florida Business Journal: Florida ties for 7th best state for retirement

Miami Herald: As Miami-Dade hotel market booms, more players want in

Jacksonville Business Journal: Wells Fargo sends refunds to thousands of FHA loan customers

Hurricane Sandy Leaves a Trail of Disaster

Now that Sandy has traveled on, the northeastern U.S. is attempting to recover from what is sure to be one of the worst disasters on record. Lessons will be learned the hard way, and fortunately we have an opportunity this time to learn them from a distance. Here are a few important insurance tips we Floridians should note:

  • Hurricane season continues through November. Review your insurance policy for important details, such as property and content values that may have changed over the years.
  • Make sure you know the amount of your hurricane deductible, so you can be prepared if you face property damage from a storm.
  • Remember that flood insurance is a separate policy from your homeowners policy. Your homeowners policy National Flood Insurance Programwill not cover flood. It's important to insure your home and its contents for floodwater damage through the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Depending on your property location, your home is either considered at high-risk or at moderate-to-low risk for a flood. Your insurance premium will vary accordingly.
  • Renters should have coverage, too. Renters insurance is reasonably priced and covers the contents of your dwelling for theft, fire or other perils, including liability. Renters also need flood insurance, too. As a tenant, it is wise to insure your personal contents through the NFIP. The policy premium is based on several factors, including the flood risk of the building that you occupy.

Protect yoru HomebaseCFO Atwater’s Disaster Preparedness webpage has many tips and details on how to prepare for a potential disaster, and insurance specialists are available Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., on the CFO’s Consumer Helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (1-877-693-5236) to assist with questions you may have about your coverage.

Florida Students $ave Essay Contest

With almost half of graduating high school seniors saying they’re unsure or unprepared to manage their own personal finances, and with the average 23- to 28-year-old carrying more than $14,000 in debt, it’s clear that there is a need to prepare our teens for the opportunities and challenges that their futures hold.Florida Students $ave Essay Contest

Working with Florida Master Money Mentors, The James Madison Institute and the Florida Council on Economic Education, we have developed the Florida Students $ave Essay Contest. The contest is part of the Your Money Matters education initiative, which aims to equip Floridians with financial knowledge in an easy and accessible way.

The goal of the contest is to motivate young people to develop personal financial skills and better prepare them for college and the workplace. The contest will award hundreds of dollars to Florida students who present the best research and planning in response to scenarios that reflect on short- and long-term financial goals.

The contest is open to all Florida high school students (public, private, charter, virtual or homeschool) for the 2012-13 school year. From now through Nov. 30, students can submit essays of up to 1,200 words for a chance to win a first-place prize of $250. Second- and third-place winners will receive $150 and $50 respectively. Three winners will be chosen from each of five regions across Florida: Northwest Florida, Jacksonville, Orlando, Tampa and South Florida.

For more information about the essay contest, including a list of contest rules, regions and how to submit an essay, visit www.MyFloridaCFO.com/YMM or call the Division of Consumer Services helpline at 1-877-MY-FL-CFO (693-5236).

Florida's Bottom Line

Florida's Bottom Line: Investing in Florida's FutureThis quarter’s issue of Florida’s Bottom Line focuses on how federal regulations are causing community banks and credit unions to divert resources away from lending to small businesses, causing them to spend increased amounts of time and money attempting to comply with new federal rules. Florida’s Bottom Line also provides the most up-to-date financial and economic statistics for Florida, serving as a roadmap for your financial future.