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For their own good
Fifty years ago, they were screwed-up kids sent to the Florida School for Boys to be straightened out. But now they are screwed-up men, scarred by the whippings they endured. Read the story and see a video and portrait gallery.
Tax Attorney Stan Beck is seen in his Hallandale, Fla., office, Friday, Oct. 12, 2007. Beck's firm, Property Tax Consultants Inc., is among the oldest and wealthiest tax rep firms in the state.
In the days before computers, Stanley Beck says, he was a "peanut" in the tax rep universe. He bought property data from a vendor who sat in the courthouse all day digging up deeds on microfiche.
Twenty five years later, Beck, 62, is king of the reps in South Florida, where he and his partners at Property Tax Consultants Ltd. lodged more than 10,000 property assessment protests last year in Miami-Dade and Broward counties alone. They helped slash $700-million from real estate and business equipment assessments in four counties, resulting in about $14-million in tax cuts. Macy's and Walgreens were among the biggest winners; other successful property owners were small businesses.
Beck, a bespectacled lawyer with a deadpan sense of humor, plays down his rising fortune. "I'm not as wealthy as Bill Gates," he quipped.
After a stint with the Arthur Andersen accounting firm, Beck went into the tax rep business in 1982. Eventually,he merged with a lucrative business that employed Al Blake, Miami-Dade's property appraiser from 1970 to 1979. Beck then added Jack N. Schlossberg, who worked in the Miami-Dade Property Appraiser's Office for eight years.
Beck, who remains the sole shareholder, won't discuss revenues or fee arrangements. An agreement posted on the Web site says the firm, which is based in Hallandale, gets up to 50 percent of the tax savings.
Last year, the business did very well in Broward, where Beck and the firm made maximum campaign contributions (totaling $2,000) to help elect Property Appraiser Lori Parrish in 2004.
Beck, who also started an informal lobbying group for South Florida tax reps, says all he wants from his political donations is good government. "We're not just slapping some good old boys on the back," he said, adding that there's no link between political donations and the Broward property appraiser's decisions.
Parrish's top counsel and director of administration, Ron Gunzburger, says that political donations do not buy access to anyone in the Broward Property Appraiser's Office.