Harvey Ruvin - Clerk of the Courts - Miami-Dade County, Florida

VAB's Local Administrative Procedures and Forms

A. GENERAL PROCEDURES

1. TIMELY FILED PETITIONS: The VAB directs the Clerk to identify those petitions received on or before the statutory deadline (September 18th, 2017) as “Timely Filed Petitions” and to thereafter schedule valuation and/or legal hearings on the properties described therein. Include as timely filed petitions, those petitions for exemption and “portability” filed by taxpayers who did not receive automatic renewals due to technical changes in ownership and who did not receive any notice of denial of exemption other than the “Notice of Proposed Assessment” recently mailed by the Property Appraiser.  Also include any petition filed by taxpayers who attempted to file applications, but were erroneously told that such applications were no longer necessary.  

2. SPECIAL EXEMPTION, “PORTABILITY” AND AGRICULTURAL CLASSIFICATION PETITIONS AND APPLICATIONS:  For the current year, taxpayers may file special exemption, “portability” and agricultural classification petitions and applications within the same time period allowed for the filing of petitions contesting valuation. If these exemption, “portability” and agricultural classification petitions and applications are not timely filed, together with a nonrefundable filing fee of $15.00, the same should be rejected.  The VAB authorizes the rejection of untimely filed petitions, as well as the creation of hearing procedures to accommodate the review of timely filed petitions and applications, not granted by the Property Appraiser.

3. LATE-FILED PETITIONS:  The VAB directs the Clerk to identify and mark those petitions filed after the statutory deadline (i.e. Midnight September 18th, 2017) as “Late-Filed Petitions”. 

4. GOOD CAUSE HEARINGS, INCLUDING DEADLINES FOR FILING: The VAB authorizes the Clerk to provide a “Good Cause Hearing” for any Late Filed Petition (including petitions for exemptions,  “portability” and agricultural classifications).  Such “Good Cause Hearings” should not be available in cases involving the special exemption, “portability” and agricultural classification petitions described in Paragraph A.2. above, if an “application” for such exemption, “portability” or agricultural classification was not timely filed with the Property Appraiser (i.e. on or before the statutory deadline,  September 18, 2017).  The Clerk may permit the late filing of petitions for purposes of “Good Cause” determinations under particular circumstances requiring equity and due process pursuant to DOR Rule 12D-9.015(11).     

The VAB designates the Clerk (i.e. the staff), the VAB attorney, and/or the Special Magistrates to act on its behalf with full power to determine the existence of “Good Cause” and/or “extraordinary circumstances” in particular cases for purposes of permitting the late filing of petitions and related applications in accordance with applicable law and DOR Rules.

5. REJECTION OF PETITIONS NOT FILED IN PROPER FORM: The VAB directs the Clerk to assure that every petition filed is in the proper form as described in F.S. Sec. 194.011(3), and to reject those petitions not so filed. If an incomplete petition is received, the VAB directs the Clerk to notify and give to the petitioner an opportunity to complete and re-file the petition within 10 calendar days from the date the notice  of incomplete petition is mailed (must include the payment of any filing fee) (See DOR Rules 12D-9.007(6) & 12D-9.015(9)(a)).

6. DENIAL OF HEARINGS IN TANGIBLE PERSONAL PROPERTY CASES IN WHICH NO TAX RETURN IS FILED:  The VAB authorizes the Clerk not to grant any hearings in tangible personal property cases with respect to which no tax returns are filed timely; and also when an incomplete tax return is filed (see F.S. 194.034(j)).

7. DENIAL OF HEARINGS ON EXEMPTION, “PORTABILITY”AND AGRICULTURAL CLASSIFICATION CASES IN WHICH APPLICATIONS NOT TIMELY FILED WITH THE PROPERTY APPRAISER: Except as otherwise provided by statute or the DOR Rules, the VAB directs the Clerk not to grant any hearings for exemptions, “portability”or agricultural classifications, the initial applications for which were not timely filed with the Miami-Dade County Property Appraiser (see F.S. Secs.193.155, 193.461 and 196.011). This procedure shall be inapplicable to automatic exemption renewals not granted due to technical changes in ownership and which are deemed “timely filed” pursuant to Paragraph IV.A.1. above.

8. REJECTING THE USE OF POSTMARKS ON PETITIONS TO DETERMINE FILING DATES: For purposes of filing documents with the VAB, including petitions, the VAB  recognizes that the word “filed” means “Received by the Clerk” and that postmark dates are not recognized as a means to identify timely filed petitions.     

9. FILING FEES: The VAB authorizes, ratifies and confirms the imposition of the maximum filing fees for VAB petitions as may be allowed by law from time to time.  This authorization shall remain in effect until such time as the VAB may amend or rescind the same. 

10. NOTICE OF HEARING:  The VAB authorizes the Clerk to adhere to F.S. Sec. 194.032(2) and DOR Rules 12D-9.015(13) and 12D-9.019(3) with respect to notifying petitioners of hearings.  Florida law provides that notices of hearings must be furnished in writing and received by taxpayers at least 25 calendar days prior to the hearing.  The Clerk is deemed to have prima-facie complied if such notice is mailed thirty days prior to the hearing date.  The Clerk also requests authority to enlarge the time within which notices are given, thus affording taxpayers more time than is required by statute and/or DOR Rule (i.e. as the VAB case load and scheduling procedures permit) if it is deemed desirable to do so. 

11. AUTHORIZING SPECIAL MAGISTRATE SANCTIONS: The VAB authorizes the Clerk, with advice of counsel, to impose reasonable sanctions against special magistrates who do not administer their case loads properly or with due diligence. Such sanctions are intended to specifically include refraining from paying or scheduling a special magistrate while prior work remains unfinished.

12. AUTHORIZING RULES FOR SUBMISSION OF DOCUMENTARY EVIDENCE: The VAB authorizes the Clerk to promulgate reasonable rules and procedures for taxpayers to submit documentary evidence to the Property Appraiser prior to VAB hearings, as mandated by F.S. Sec. 194.034.  In addition, certain  “evidence exchange” rules are now in effect under F.S. Sec. 194.011(4), DOR Rule 12D-9.020  and 12D-9.025 and the Clerk is authorized to adopt such procedures as may be necessary and/or appropriate to implement and comply with such rules, and to coordinate them with the VAB’s previously existing reschedule guidelines described in Paragraph IV.C. below.   

13. AUTHORIZING SPECIAL MAGISTRATE COMPUTER INPUT PROCEDURES: The VAB authorizes the Clerk to implement procedures requiring special magistrates to input their findings of fact and recommendations directly into the VAB computer system; and to provide training and otherwise assist special magistrates in developing their proficiency with the VAB computer system.

14. AUTHORIZING SPECIAL MAGISTRATE TO CORRECT PROPERTY APPRAISER ERRORS: The VAB authorizes special magistrates to review and authorize the retroactive correction of certain errors to the current year’s tax assessments made by the Property Appraiser pre-certification and in accordance with DOR Rule 12D-8.021(7)-(9). The VAB further authorizes the Clerk to schedule all such cases for hearing pre-certification before special magistrates; and to determine that the approval of a correction of these errors by a special magistrate shall be deemed to constitute VAB approval of such correction (i.e. without further VAB action) for purposes of officially implementing such corrections under DOR Rule 12D-8.021.  The Clerk shall receive and process all petitions timely filed by taxpayers relative to these corrections.  Except for good cause shown by taxpayers,  all such petitions must be filed no later than 25 days after the Property Appraiser gives written notice of the proposed change under DOR Rule 12D-8.021(9).

15. DENIAL OF PETITIONS DUE TO TAXPAYER’S FAILURE TO MAKE PARTIAL PAYMENT OF TAXES REQUIRED BY STATUTE: The VAB authorizes the Clerk to deny petitions for which taxpayers do not make the partial tax payment required by F.S. Sec.194.014(1). This statute requires taxpayers to pay all non-ad valorem taxes and make a partial payment of the ad valorem taxes levied against the property before the taxes become delinquent (customarily April 1 of the following calendar year).

B. AUTHORIZATION FOR THE RETENTION AND/OR REFUND OF FILING FEES PAID ON ERRONEOUS OR DUPLICATE PETITIONS

The VAB authorizes the retention and/or refund of any filing fees erroneously paid by taxpayers on filed petitions, including any petitions on which excessive filing fees were paid.  Such refunds shall be made upon petitioner’s written request and proof of original payment by copy of cancelled check (i.e. front and back) or clerk’s receipt reflecting cash payment.

The Clerk is also authorized to retain and not refund filing fees paid on duplicate petitions filed on the same parcel of property by different persons, processing only the single petition ultimately authorized by the owner and validated by the VAB staff.

The Clerk is further authorized to retain and not refund filing fees paid on petitions that are filed in bad-faith or in contravention to memoranda, orders or directives issued by the VAB, VAB Attorney or Clerk.

C. RESCHEDULING GUIDELINES

The VAB directs the Clerk to adhere to the new F.S. 194.032(2)(a).

It provides that the petitioner or the property appraiser may reschedule the hearing a single time for “good cause.” In this section, “good cause” means circumstances beyond the control of the person seeking to reschedule the hearing which reasonably prevent him or her from having adequate representation at the hearing.

In an effort to provide guidance, the VAB directs the Clerk and VAB Attorney to look to the statute and to the following examples when rescheduling appearances before the Special Magistrates. These are some examples of Good Cause:

1. A recent death within the immediate family of the petitioner.

2. The petitioner suffered an (attestable) emergency medical problem precluding his/her scheduled appearance before the Board.  Notification to the Board shall be made prior to the scheduled date of hearing, if possible. 

3. The Petitioner or their agent is scheduled to appear before a Florida Circuit Court or higher on the same date and within the same time frame that they are scheduled to appear before the Board.

4. Proper notification was not afforded the petitioner, pursuant to the provisions of DOR Rules 12D-9.015(13) and 12D-9.019(3).

(a) The petitioner’s scheduled appearance falls on a religious holiday.

(b) Such other reasons as may be determined by the Clerk or the VAB attorney that constitute good cause for rescheduling under DOR Rule 12D-9.032(2)(a).

(c) An act of God or other force majeure. 

These are some examples of what is not Good Cause:

1. Negligence, incompetence or a ministerial/clerical error made by the taxpayer or their representative.           

2. The Petitioner or their agent is scheduled to appear before another VAB jurisdiction on the same date and within the same time frame that they are scheduled to appear before the Board.

3. Ignorance of Florida law or VAB procedures.

NOTE: To this end, the Clerk may require a sworn affidavit at his or her discretion. 

D. APPEALS OF DECISIONS RENDERED BY THE SPECIAL MAGISTRATES

The VAB determines not to accommodate any request from petitioners or the Property Appraiser to review de novo the decisions of the special magistrates.  The VAB is specifically required by law to “appoint special magistrates for the purpose of taking testimony and making recommendations to the VAB, which recommendations the VAB may act upon without further hearing.”

(Since 1977, the VAB has declined to hear de novo appeals from the decisions of the special magistrates either from taxpayers or the Property Appraiser, directing all such appeals to the Circuit Court.  The Circuit Court has original jurisdiction of all matters relating to property taxation (including appeals from VAB decisions), venue being in the county where the property is located (F.S. Sec. 194.171)).

NOTE: Although the VAB is under no statutory obligation to entertain reconsideration requests, it does currently entertain them under certain circumstances and as described in the attached reconsideration memorandum.

E. EMPLOYMENT OF SPECIAL MAGISTRATES

In prior years, the VAB has hired Appraiser special magistrates and Attorney special magistrates to conduct hearings and make recommendations to the VAB.  The compensation payable to such special magistrates was previously fixed by the VAB at a flat rate of $700.00 per eight hour hearing session or “board” (including time devoted to completing any related paperwork and computer entries), and/or $87.50 per hour payable under the following special circumstances:

1. “Overtime” payable for any additional services rendered at the specific request and as approved by the VAB Clerk and/or VAB attorney.

2. Orientation and Training of special magistrates requiring additional time to prepare for or continue their VAB service.

3. Compensation paid for partial hearing sessions or “boards” requiring less than a full day of service.

4. “Overtime” payable for additional time devoted to complete “board” agendas and related paperwork and computer entries due to excessive number of cases scheduled by the VAB staff (i.e. disproportionate     number of complex cases scheduled for one board), computer malfunctions or any other reason deemed by the staff to be beyond the control of the special magistrate and otherwise justifying the payment of additional compensation.

(The VAB previously adopted the foregoing special magistrate compensation schedule on a continuing basis (i.e. to be applied in future years), until such time as the VAB may, in its absolute discretion, determine otherwise. The VAB has also retained the power to schedule and/or discharge special magistrates in its absolute discretion, with or without cause.)

F. AUTHORIZING TAXPAYER REPRESENTATIVE AND PROPERTY APPRAISER REPRESENTATIVE SANCTIONS

The VAB is a quasi-judicial forum and as such it directs all members of the VAB community to practice with civility, professionalism, credibility and to observe the utmost ethical standards.  The VAB may impose reasonable sanctions against taxpayer representatives and property appraiser representatives who do not behave in an honest, diligent, civil, ethical and professional manner.  Some of the ethical and professionalism standards that apply may be found at the Florida Bar’s website https://www.floridabar.org/prof/presources/.  Particularly relevant is the Professionalism Handbook that can be found at this same link.  If necessary, VAB professional standards may be further detailed in future memoranda.  

Potential sanctions include but are not limited to:

1. Reporting the offending representative to whatever board or group regulates their profession.

2. Prohibiting the offending representative from practicing before the VAB for a limited time or forever.

3. Reporting incidents of perjury to the Miami-Dade State Attorney’s Office for criminal prosecution.

Some examples of behavior that the VAB considers sanctionable:

1. Submitting fraudulent evidence/documents/correspondence.

2. Committing Perjury (e.g. lying under oath at a VAB hearing and/or misrepresenting evidence)

3. Actions taken in direct contravention to a VAB Memorandum.

4. Using profanity or yelling.

5. Misusing rules such as the evidence exchange rules or the reconsideration rules for tactical purposes in order to delay or otherwise hinder the efficient operation of the VAB.

6. Forum shopping. (This includes misusing evidence exchange violations in order to force a reschedule in the hopes of getting a different special magistrate or trying to anger the special magistrate in order to force their recusal).