Do VAB Special Magistrates Have Authority to Remand for a Reassessment?

It’s time for me to get on my soapbox about a big blunder the Florida Department of Revenue made in its new VAB forms and proposed rules.  Okay, so there was probably more than one blunder, but this one sticks in my craw because I filed a public comment and apparently nobody paid any attention.  The blunder I’m referring to is the authority apparently bestowed on the Special Magistrates by the DOR to order Property Appraisers to revise their assessments.  The Florida statutes allow the circuit court or value adjustment board to remand for a reassessment under appropriate circumstances, but the Special Magistrates plainly do not have any statutory authority to issue an order directing the Property Appraiser to change their assessment.

Florida Statute s. 194.301 provides that if the Property Appraiser’s assessment is overturned and the record lacks substantial competent evidence of value, the matter must be remanded to the property appraiser with appropriate directions from the value adjustment board or the court.  While the VAB is authorized by Florida Statute 194.035 to appoint special magistrates for the purpose of taking testimony and making recommendations to the board, the final decision as to whether to overturn the assessment and, if so, whether to set the value or remand to the Property Appraiser for a reassessment, is a decision for the board.  The Board can act on the recommendations of the Special Magistrate without further hearing, but nothing in the Florida statutes suggests that Special Magistrates have any authority to directly order a Property Appraiser to reassess property.

So why then did the Department of Revenue promulgate a form (Form DR-485R) that invites the Special Magistrates to order the property appraisers to reassess property even before the VAB has determined whether the original assessment is valid?  And why do the DOR’s proposed Rules provide procedures for the Special Magistrates to remand an assessment to the Property Appraiser without prior approval of the Value Adjustment Board?  I cannot answer these questions, but I will say that the proposed regulations are clearly beyond the DOR’s rulemaking authority.

Comments on the DOR’s proposed rules can be sent to VAB@dor.state.fl.us or you can call the DOR at (850) 922-7945.