As commercial real property owners in Florida are likely aware, the Sunshine State imposes its sales tax on rental payments for the lease of real property. The general 6 percent state-level tax was reduced to 5.8 percent for 2018. The legislature passed a law to further reduce the state-level rate to 5.7 percent for occupancy periods beginning on or after Jan. 1, 2019. There is no reduction in the local option surtax that many Florida counties impose. Real property rentals subject to the reduced rate include commercial office space, retail, warehouses and certain self-storage units, excluding storage for motor vehicles, boats and aircraft.

Florida is somewhat unique in taxing real property leases. The tax is imposed not only on the base rent, but also on any additional rent, or any consideration required to be paid by the tenant as a condition of occupancy. As a result, the tax is also due on the tenant’s share of common-area maintenance charges, real property taxes, and most other charges required under the lease.

It is important for commercial real estate owners to recognize that the applicable sales tax rate is based on the timing of when the tenant occupies or has a right to occupy the property and not the month or year in which the tenant pays the rent. Accordingly, if a landlord receives rent payments in 2019 for December 2018 occupancy, the 5.8 percent state-level rate would still apply (plus the applicable local surtax). On the other hand, if a tenant pays the rent for January 2019 in December 2018, the 5.7 percent rate would apply.

It is also important to remember that a lease of residential property is subject to the sales tax on transient rentals unless the rental is under a bona fide written lease for a period of longer than six months. The rate of this tax on transient rentals will remain at 6 percent (plus local option surtax). Furthermore, a lease of residential real property that is taxable as a transient rental (because it does not satisfy the six-month bona fide written lease requirement) is also subject to local tourist-development taxes. The rate on these local tourist-development taxes varies from 5 percent to 7 percent for most major counties. There is no reduction in the tax rates of these local tourist-development taxes.

Landlords and management companies sending out invoices for rental periods commencing on or after Jan. 1, 2019, should revise their invoice software to account for the 0.1 percent reduction in the state tax rate.