Solar panel tax fight goes to high court

Florida News

(Nexstar DC photo)

OKALOOSA COUNTY, Fla. (News Service of Florida) — A tax fight about a solar-panel array at a Panhandle military base has gone to the Florida Supreme Court.

Gulf Coast Solar Center I, LLC, filed a notice Wednesday that is a first step in asking justices to review a decision by the 1st District Court of Appeal.

A three-judge panel of the appeals court sided with Okaloosa County officials and the Florida Department of Revenue in ruling that Gulf Coast Solar Center I is required to pay tangible personal property taxes on the solar facility at Eglin Air Force Base.

The firm in 2016 subleased 240 acres on the base from Gulf Power Co., which had previously leased the land.

After Gulf Coast Solar Center I built and began operating the array, the Okaloosa County property appraiser in 2018 assessed tangible personal property taxes, according to the appeals-court ruling. The firm fought paying the taxes, pointing to the panels being on federal land.

“Gulf Coast argues simply that because the property is located on a federal enclave under the exclusive jurisdiction of the federal government, the U.S. and Florida supreme courts have definitely held the property is exempt from taxation,” the appeals-court ruling said. “However, as the property appraiser correctly argues, the federal enclave doctrine is much more nuanced than Gulf Coast asserts.”

The ruling, in part, said the property was leased under a federal law known as the Military Leasing Act. It said Congress consented to state and local taxes on businesses that lease such property.

As is common, the notice filed Wednesday did not detail arguments that Gulf Coast Solar Center I will make at the Supreme Court.

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