Florida Tax Appeal Laws are Getting it Right!

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It’s taken a long time for a chink in the armor to be exploited, but here it is. New Florida Law Makes it Easier to Challenge Property Tax Appraisals

Florida’s appraisers will now have the burden of proof when supporting their assessments in property value disputes from taxpayers, Gov. Charlie Crist signed a bill amending Section 194.301 that shifts the burden of proof to government appraisers. Starting July 1, property owners who disagree with their tax assessments can appeal to what’s known as a Value Adjustment Board where they will have the opportunity to present convincing evidence that the government number is too high. Until now, the law assumed the appraiser’s assessment was correct, minimizing the odds of winning an appeal. In an interview with the Sun-Sentinel, Palm Beach County Property Appraiser Gary Nikolits said, “What aggravates property appraisers is the fact that every other government agency has the presumption of correctness. If you get a ticket, that police officer is presumed correct. Why shouldn’t our values have that presumption?” “It levels the playing field,” said Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami, the main sponsor. County appraisers, he said, “think that they’re always right, because they’ve been used to the courts looking at them… like they were always right. Now they’re going to have to prove it.” However, Broward appraiser Lori Parrish told the Sun-Sentinel that the law won’t have much effect on her office’s operations. “I think I was the only property appraiser in the state who didn’t object” to the bill, she told the paper. “I kind of feel like if the property owners and taxpayers fund our office salaries and education and technology… I ought to have to prove where I came up with my numbers.” Nikolits said that the new law won’t be a big benefit to property owners, but it will give more legal leverage to businesses with significant property holdings. And as taxpayers win more cases, the new law is expected to mean less money for schools and local government. By 2013, the impact is anticipated to be $694 million statewide, according to state analysts.

Well, for the first time in print, I’ve seen it finally said that the deck is stacked against the taxpayer.  The Chinese firewall is no longer secure.  You’ve read on some of  my other tax appeal blogs about the insanity of the appealing before the tax board.  Some tax board hearings I’ve testified at the appraiser and taxpayer don’t stand even the slighted chance.  Like I’ve said in other tax appeal blogs, you can’t make a commercial tax appeal presentation in 10 minutes and have any hope of winning unless you prove gross incompetence on the assessor’s part (and even then, they’re more likely to require a third party settle factual “differences” instead of ruling in the taxpayer’s favor).  That’s just one of many examples I can give you.

Want to know what really gets me giddy about this?  I have yet to find an assessor actually prepare an appraisal or any other document supporting their value conclusion at a tax board hearing.  They pull out the assessor’s worksheet that shows how they calculated the assessment, but as for proof that anything on that page is correct… forget about it.  They specialized in talking the good fight at the tax board levels.  I don’t blame them… if I had the decked stacked in my favor that much, I wouldn’t bother putting the time in either.  Now Florida law leads the way by making the assessor prove his or her value conclusion.  Looks like the desk jockeys need to become field appraisers.  So much for sitting in the cat bird seat. Only 49 states to go!

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