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Solar Panels On Eglin AFB Face Taxes

Solar panels gather sunlight in Florida.
Solar panels gather sunlight in Florida.

A solar-panel array built on Eglin Air Force military base is subject to a type of state property tax, an appeals court ruled Monday.

A three-judge panel of the 1st District Court of Appeal sided with Okaloosa County officials and the Florida Department of Revenue in ruling that Gulf Coast Solar Center I, LLC 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 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,” said the five-page ruling written by Judge Thomas Winokur and joined by Judges Brad Thomas and Harvey Jay. “However, as the property appraiser correctly argues, the federal enclave doctrine is much more nuanced than Gulf Coast asserts.”

The ruling, in part, said that 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.