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Burden of proof property tax bill becomes law

IMG_2927 At a ceremony in the Capitol Thursday, Gov. Charlie Crist signed legislation that lowers the burden of proof for property owners who challenge their tax bills. Joining Crist at the ceremony were Mark Wilson of the Florida Chamber of Commerce (at left) and John Sebree of the Florida Association of Realtors (at right).

Before HB 521 became law, the burden was on the taxpayer to prove that the appraisal was incorrect. The new standard is the preponderance of the evidence, and the change "is an added protection for taxpayers and it's good public policy," Crist said. Asked about concerns by local governents that the legislation could "handcuff" them by costing them up to $500-million, Crist said: "Florida taxpayers feel handcuffed and they need some help."

The bill will not affect pending property tax challenges, but it will affect taxpayer challenges filed with counties' Value Adjustment Boards in 2009. Challenges are usually filed in August and September. The legislators who led the charge on the bill were Sen. Mike Fasano, R-New Port Richey and Rep. Carlos Lopez-Cantera, R-Miami.

-- Steve Bousquet