For the second time in 2022, the Walt Disney Company has filed a lawsuit against the Orange County property appraiser to appeal property tax assessments on the grounds of inaccurate methodology.
For this year alone, the taxes owed on Magic Kingdom Park, valued at $467 million, were just $12.8 million. Similarly, Disney’s Animal Kingdom Park, Disney’s Hollywood Studios, and EPCOT received valuations of $387 million, $479 million, and $521 million according to court documents. Moreover, former Property Appraiser Rick Singh claimed in a 2017 interview that Disney property unfairly received undervaluations on a regular basis, noting, “If the single mother who is working two jobs has to be held accountable to pay her fair share, so should everybody else.”
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Therefore, you would think a Company this profitable might be able to pay off its debt like every taxpayer. In fact, Disney CEO Bob Chapek announced a total of $7.9 billion in revenue for this year’s fourth quarter alone! Moreover, you would think if Disney is able to fund upcoming improvements and Park expansions, it could also pay its taxes, and provide its employees a living wage first.
However, a new report shows Disney Parks and Resorts, which has contested its assessments in court multiple times over the years, fully paid what was owed to the IRS for the fiscal year, then turned around and filed a dozen lawsuits with Florida’s Orange County. Although Disney did not specify its reasons for the claim, the Company recently stated in court documents that “The Appraiser failed to comply with … Florida Statutes and professionally accepted appraisal practices in assessing the Subject Property… The Appraiser has included the value of certain intangible property in the Assessments.”
Even so, the appraiser in question is Amy Mercado, who succeeded Singh in 2021 and previously reached settlements with Disney which were favorable to the Company, such as issuing a $9 million refund on tax values billed between 2015 and 2020. Plus, last year, Mercardo went on record stating: “The whole purpose of our office, regardless of who is in it, is fair, equitable and just values. It doesn’t matter who the owners are. What I believe we need to do is remove all the political noise that has occurred throughout the years and give everyone, every property owner, their fair shake.”
Certainly, it seems like the perspectives of Orange County’s new appraiser and the Walt Disney Company are more aligned, something which will help their current case in court. It will be interesting to see how the outcome of the case impacts the already announced plans in development both within the Disney theme park division and Disney Streaming/the Disney Media and Entertainment Distribution.
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So far, neither Mercado’s office nor any official Disney spokesperson for current CEO Bob Iger has offered more insight on the lawsuits. Of course, Disney itself faces a suit by Company investors over the contents between Governor DeSantis and the Reedy Creek Improvement District. DisneyTips will continue to provide updates as they become available.