The Florida statutes provide a fairly detailed procedure for the exchange of evidence between the taxpayer and the Property Appraiser. However, the statutes are a bit vague on the consequences of failing to disclose evidence in a timely manner. This post will try to address some common questions about Florida’s evidence disclosure requirements for Value Adjustment Board hearings.
Is the Property Appraiser required to share their evidence with the petitioner prior to the VAB hearing?
It depends. Pursuant to section 194.011(4), Fla. Stat., the Property Appraiser is required to disclose their evidence to the petitioner at least 7 days prior to the hearing only if the petitioner discloses their evidence (witness information and copies of documentary evidence) to the Property Appraiser at least 15 days prior to the VAB hearing and the petitioner sends the Property Appraiser a written request for disclosure of the Property Appraiser’s evidence. If the petitioner fails to disclose their evidence in a timely manner, or if the petitioner discloses their evidence but neglects to send the Property Appraiser a written request for disclosure of evidence, the Property Appraiser is under no duty to share their evidence with the petitioner. That said, the Property Appraiser’s records are, for the most part, still subject to the disclosure requirements of the Public Records Act, and thus a petitioner may still be able to make a request for specific documents.
If the Property Appraiser does disclose their evidence in a timely manner, will it be excluded from evidence?
No. If the petitioner complies with the requirements of section 194.011(4), Fla. Stat. and the Property Appraiser fails to disclose their evidence at least 7 days prior to the hearing, the hearing will be re-scheduled, but there is no indication in the statute that the Property Appraiser’s evidence would be inadmissible.
Is the petitioner required to disclose their evidence to the Property Appraiser prior to the VAB hearing?
No. If the petitioner wants to see the Property Appraiser’s evidence prior to the hearing, the petitioner must disclose their evidence at least 15 days prior to the hearing. However, according to the training materials provided by the Florida Department of Revenue to the VABs and Special Magistrates, the petitioner’s initiation of an evidence exchange with the Property Appraiser is strictly optional. If the petitioner chooses not to disclose their evidence, the evidence is not necessarily inadmissible. The only consequence provided in the statute is that the petitioner does not have a right to see the Property Appraiser’s evidence in advance.
What if the Property Appraiser sends the petitioner a request for documents? Must the petitioner respond?
Yes. Pursuant to section 194.034(1)(d), Fla. Stat. and the Higgs v. Good case, if the Property Appraiser makes a written request for information and the taxpayer fails to respond, the taxpayer will be prohibited from using that information at the VAB hearing or in court. Thus, while the taxpayer is not required to initiate an evidence exchange, failing to respond to a written request from the Property Appraiser could affect their right to introduce the requested information at a later hearing.
What transmission methods can be used for exchanging evidence?
Rule 12D-10.0044 of the Florida Administrative Code provides that the exchange of evidence can be accomplished by mail, fax, e-mail, hand delivery or any other method agreed upon by the parties. See Rule 12D-10.0044 for more information on delivery methods.