One of the more confusing issues that seems to arise during Value Adjustment Board hearings is the question of whether and to what extent the Property Appraiser and the taxpayer can use sales that close after the January 1st assessment date to support their respective opinions of value. The short answer is that there is no legal prohibition against using post-assessment date sales as evidence. Ultimately, the issue is the just value of the property as of January 1st, and any evidence that tends to indicate the value of the property on that date may be admissible.
The confusion about this issue arose, in part, because of Florida Department of Revenue Bulletin PTA 06-08, wherein the Department of Revenue advised Florida county property appraisers that the use of sales that occur after January 1st to prepare their tax rolls would be inconsistent with the requirements of Florida law. This bulletin raised some eyebrows among the appraisal community, as many appraisers and attorneys felt that, particularly when the market was in a state of transition on January 1st, post-assessment date sales could be indicative of a market trend that affected the value of the property on January 1st. The bulletin also appeared to conflict with the case of Bystrom v. Equitable Life Assurance Society, wherein the appellate court held that evidence (in that case, income data) that comes to light after the assessment date may be relevant to the value as of January 1st.
Thereafter, the Department of Revenue issued Bulletin PTO 08-02, which replaced Bulletin PTA 06-08. In this new bulletin, the Department reviewed the case law in more detail and came to the conclusion that post-assessment date sales may be considered if they are probative of the just value on the assessment date. Specifically, the Department advised county property appraisers that post-assessment date sales may only be considered in preparing the tax roll when the following four conditions are met:
1. When post-assessment date sales are probative of just value for the subject property as of January 1st;
2. When post-assessment date sales are not used as a substitute for pre-assessment date sales;
3. When post-assessment date sales are considered only in conjunction with pre-assessment date sales; and
4. When the consideration of post-assessment date sales is otherwise consistent with law.
In short, the Department indicated that, in preparing their tax rolls, county property appraisers may consider post-assessment date sales, as long as they are considered in conjunction with pre-assessment date sales and the sales are indicative of the January 1st value.
Of course, as a practical matter, because the property appraisers must submit their tax rolls by July 1st, they are simply unable to use sales that occur late in the year. Thus, sales that occur later in the year will likely not be admissible to prove that the Property Appraiser failed to properly consider those sales, since it would have been impossible to consider a sale that had not yet occurred. And even when there is a sale of the actual property in question, the court in Haines v. Holley held that a sale that occurs in June should not necessarily be relied on to assess the property as of January 1st. However, based on the current state of the law and the Department’s most recent bulletin, it appears that both the Property Appraiser and the taxpayer could conceivably use post-assessment date sales to defend their respective opinions of value, as long as they can tie the sales to the January 1st assessment date.