Orange County tax collector sues Orlando International Airport over unpaid taxes

GOAA owes nearly $3.5 million in back taxes, according to lawsuit

Holiday travelers make their way through Orlando International Airport Tuesday, Nov. 24, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux) (John Raoux, Copyright 2020 The Associated Press. All rights reserved)

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. – The Orange County Tax Collector’s office has filed a lawsuit against the Greater Orlando Aviation Authority, the governing entity for the Orlando International Airport, for unpaid taxes totaling nearly $3.5 million.

According to the lawsuit filed Tuesday, the taxes from 2015 through Dec. 31, 2020 of nearly $3.5 million have not been paid. Previously, for 2015-2019, GOAA was notified of the taxes owed on its properties and did not challenge the amount, the lawsuit states.

“We hope to resolve this case quickly. Ultimately every property owner is responsible for the taxes owed–taxes that support our schools and public safety–and it’s my constitutional duty to collect them,” Tax Collector Scott Randolph said in a statement Wednesday.

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Members of the tax collector’s office and GOAA met in June 2019 to discuss the owed taxes, and, according to the lawsuit, GOAA officials said an effort would be made to pay the overdue amount but that has not happened as of the filing of the lawsuit.

In December 2020, a lawyer representing the tax collector sent a letter to GOAA’s attorney notifying them of their intent to file a complaint for delinquent taxes if the amount went unpaid within 20 days.

In the letter, the attorney said the tax collector is aware the current pandemic is placing a burden on businesses. Travel through the Orlando International Airport dropped 97% at the height of the COVID-19 pandemic last spring, according to airport officials.

“However, now more than ever, there are critical state and local government needs that these taxes will fund, including the Orange County Public Schools,” the letter continued.

Property taxes go toward funding Orange County schools, libraries and law enforcement.

The tax collector is required to collect 18% annual interest if the taxes have not been paid 60 days after the bill is due. The nearly $3.5 million owed includes interest and continues to grow, according to the letter sent to GOAA in December 2020.

An Orlando airport spokeswoman issued a statement to News 6 about the lawsuit.

“GOAA’s agreements with tenants specify that the tenants are required to pay any ad valorem taxes assessed on their lease areas.  For the majority of the tax liability claimed, the tax collector sent tax notices to the tenants, not GOAA.  In fact, some of the tenants are contesting the tax notices, as is their right.  The Greater Orlando Aviation. Authority is not responsible for paying these taxes,” spokeswoman Carolyn Fennell said.