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Florida Audit Criticizes VABs

by William C. Coleman, Orlando and Tony Garcia, Fort Lauderdale, July 2014

 

A performance audit of Florida Value Adjustment Boards (VAB) charges that local government officials are more concerned with safeguarding tax revenues than fairly valuing real estate.

 

The report highlights the need for professional representation to ensure that property tax assessments are correct and equitable.

 

Lack of Impartiality

 

The 20-page report released by Florida Auditor General David W. Martin states, "Independence in the appeal process at the local level may have been compromised due to local officials involved in the process who may not have been impartial and whose operations are funded with the same property tax revenue at stake in the appeal process."

 

The audit, conducted between September 2012 and September 2013, examined 15 VABs across the state that were representative of small, medium, and large counties. It did not address how many taxpayers were apparently overcharged or how much in taxes was improperly collected by cities, counties, school boards and special districts.

 

Audit Recommendations

 

The audit recommends legislative changes, including:

 

  • Requiring that the VAB be composed of individuals, the majority of which are not county government or school board officials

  • Establishing rules of conduct with appropriate sanctions for VAB members, clerks, attorneys, and special magistrates

  • Developing uniform checklist forms for VABs to document compliance with various appeal process requirements

  • Considering specific prior work performance factors when selecting special magistrates

  • Clarifying whether special magistrates may serve on multiple VABs

  • Creating an appeal process at the regional or State level

 

To read the full audit report with additional recommendations, click here.