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Florida Tweaks Taxpayer Bill of Rights

by William C. Coleman III, Orlando, May 2016

 

New Florida legislation makes multiple changes to the state's Taxpayer Bill of Rights. Specifically, it deals with the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) process including: the filing of tangible personal property (TPP) returns, the exchange of evidence, rescheduling hearings, and interest on unpaid taxes and refunds.

 

TPP Returns

 

House Bill 499 makes the timely filing of a tangible personal property return a prerequisite to appealing to the VAB. If the taxpayer was notified that their return was erroneous or incomplete, they must have filed a complete return during the 30 days following the property appraiser's notification.

 

Attorney Benjamin K. Phipps, Senior Partner with Phipps & Howell sees problems with the new language in the act.

 

"It seems to give the county property appraisers the sole discretion to determine when a TPP return is complete, and if they decide the return is incomplete that blocks an assessment contest. Further, if they make such a determination, there is no mechanism for challenging it, even though that is an absolute bar to any form of assessment contest, administrative or juridical. Obviously, that raises questions about a 'denial of due process'. Good for lawyers, not so good for taxpayers," Phipps explained.

 

Rescheduling a VAB Hearing

 

Under the bill, the property owner and the appraiser can each reschedule a VAB hearing a single time for good cause. The bill defines good cause as “circumstances beyond the control of the person seeking to reschedule that reasonably prevent them from having adequate representation at the hearing.”

 

The new law reduces the notice from 25 to 15 days when the rehearing is requested by the property owner.

 

Refunds and Unpaid Taxes

 

HB 499 changes the amount of interest that accrues on either partial property tax payments or refunds from 12 percent to the bank prime loan rate as determined by the Federal Reserve on July 1 or the first business day thereafter.

 

Further, the bill allows for interest accrual, at the prime rate, when the property appraiser and the property owner reach a settlement prior to the VAB hearing. The bill clarifies that interest on an overpayment related to a petition shall be funded proportionately by each taxing authority that was overpaid. The bill does not change the interest rate for amounts in dispute for court proceedings.

 

Timeline

 

HB 499 requires the VAB to complete all hearings and certify the assessment roll to the property appraiser by June 1 each year. If the number of petitions increased by more than 10% over the previous year, the deadline is extended to December 1.