The one thing I love the most about the Florida Department of Revenue is their pragmatism in enacting rules that balance the interest of the government and the taxpayers. Also where the state legislature is silent or overlooks certain issues, the Department of Revenue fills in the blanks. Such is the case here with the taxpayer's right to file late petitions at the Value Adjustment Board. Firstly, we must note that the Florida property tax appeal season, commonly referred to as "Trim Season" commences on the brink of the hurricane season. The hurricane season causes all sorts of disruption in business, in government and in ones personal life. From power outages to floods, and or displacement of living arrangements. The aftermath creates an abundance of logistical nightmares. A reasonable person under such circumstances is likely to experience a shift in priorities or be rendered unable to perform legal acts in a timely fashion.
The most recent hurricane, Hurricane Irma, started August 30th and dissipated on or about September 16. Petitions were due at the Value Adjustment Board on September 18th.
So many stories of hardship has since been heard by the Special Magistrates this year from late filers.
Pursuant to Department of Revenue Rule 12D-9.015(11) petitioners are allowed to file late if they can substantiate by a preponderance of evidence standard that
Good Cause exists for their late filed petitions.
The Florida Department of Revenue has promulgated a definition for what constitutes “good cause.” According to Rule 12D-9.015(11)(a), “good cause” means the verifiable showing of extraordinary circumstances, as follows:
1. Personal, family, or business crisis or emergency at a critical time or for an extended period of time that would cause a reasonable person’s attention to be diverted from filing; or
2. Physical or mental illness, infirmity, or disability that would reasonably affect the petitioner’s ability to timely file; or
3. Miscommunication with, or misinformation received from, the board clerk, property appraiser, or their staff regarding the necessity or the proper procedure for filing that would cause a reasonable person’s attention to be diverted from timely filing; or
4. Any other cause beyond the control of the petitioner that would prevent a reasonably prudent petitioner from timely filing.
Assurance Legal, LLC has won at least one Good Cause hearing for a Miami-Dade taxpayer thus far this year by meeting the burden of proof and persuading the Special Magistrate of compelling extraordinary circumstances. Attorney Jennifer A. Blanc has come across many taxpayers who have had the misfortune of having to meet this evidentiary burden before any further consideration by the Board in hearing property tax appeals on the merits for reduction.
This hurdle can add extra-time and expense to any case because of the need to seek voluntary witnesses, witness preparations, sworn affidavits, and compliance with HIPPA requests of medical records.
Some cases granted by the VAB magistrates include an elderly man whose wife had recently suffered a stroke. He takes the train from his South Dade home to the Government Center on the deadline date, that's less than 48hrs after the hurricane past. Just image how scared he must have been to walk thru such a treacherous city landscape which included down electrical poles, trees and other trip hazards. When he comes within a few feet of the building, an individual who is unknown to this man shouts in a loudly resounding voice, "the County is closed!" However, un-beknownst to him, the VAB was open that day. This elderly man was so startled by the loud voice and the site of the homeless population and vagrants that surrounded the building that he departed quickly to return to his Coral Gables home.
In our recent win at a Good Cause hearing, Attorney Blanc represented a busy corporate executive who not only was besieged by Irma's aftermath, i.e the loss of power, but simultaneously had to deal with the logistical nightmares and psychological burdens involved in having to visit at least three different medical facilities in order to make medical decisions surrounding the critical care of a family member. The taxpayer's place of employment was more than thirty-five miles away from home. These culminating factors, rendered it virtually impossible for this taxpayer to give the appeal deadline any attention. Without having the opportunity to proceed with a Good Cause hearing and having succeeded at that hearing, our taxpaying client would have been deprived of the opportunity to seek a reduction in his assessment.
Both of these cases demonstrate extraordinary circumstances pre-empting one's ability to exercise his or her rights. Due process demands fairness, just and equitable results. There is an old saying in the law, "equity abhors forfeitures." Without Good Cause hearings the tax system in Florida would be devoid of justice. Ironically enough, not all states can boast of the availability of this remedy.
Assurance Legal, LLC wants every taxpayer to know of their rights and place them in a better position to exercise their rights under the law. If you have blown the September 18, 2017 appeal deadline and have otherwise paid at least 75 percent of your annual tax liability, please contact us and we can discuss whether you can likely meet the burden of "Good Cause" or whether you have a strong enough case to file in the Florida Circuit Courts. You can certainly register on our platform in order to beat all deadlines for next summer's Trim Notice season.