Value Adjustment Board
The Polk County Value Adjustment Board (VAB) is established by Chapter 194, Florida Statutes, to hear appeals of the Property Appraiser's determinations with regard to property exemptions, classifications, portability, and valuations, through petition filing and scheduled quasi-judicial hearings.
The VAB consists of two County Commissioners, one Polk County School Board member and two citizens members-one citizen member who has homesteaded property, resides in Polk County, and is appointed by the Polk County Commission; and a second citizen member who owns a business occupying commercial space located within the Polk County School District, appointed by the School Board. The VAB employs special magistrates who are either attorney with property law experience or certified appraisers to hear taxpayer petitions.
Exemptions / Portability / Classifications
Applications are filed with the Property Appraiser for exemptions, portability, and classifications. Although the major categories are Homestead, Seniors Homestead, Agriculture, and Non-Profit, there are many exemptions and classifications, each with specific statutory requirements. The statutory deadline for accepting petitions for exemptions, portability, and classifications is 25 days after the mailing of Truth in Millage (TRIM) notices in mid-August by the Property Appraiser's office. The VAB must receive the petition by the 25th day, having it postmarked by the 25th day is not sufficient.
Denial of an Exemption, Portability, or Classification
If the Property Appraiser denies your application for an exemption, portability, or classification, and you wish to appeal that decision to the VAB, you may file a petition with the VAB within 30 days of the Property Appraiser's mailing of the notice of denial. These notices are usually mailed in June. The petition must be received by the VAB, not just postmarked by the 30th day. There is a non-refundable filing fee of $15 for the appeal of all classifications and exemptions, including portability.
Truth in Millage Notices, which are proposed tax bills and are also referred to as TRIM Notices, are mailed to all Polk County taxpayers in mid-August by the Property Appraiser. Upon receipt of this notice, any taxpayer wishing to appeal the assessed value of his/her property may file a petition with the VAB. The statutory deadline for accepting petitions for assessed value is 25 days after the mailing of TRIM notices in mid-August by the Property Appraiser's Office. The VAB must receive the petition by the 25th day, having it postmarked by the 25th day is not sufficient.
Informal Meeting with Property Appraiser
Florida Statutes authorize a taxpayer to meet informally with the Property Appraiser, 863-534-4777, to discuss any matter he/she disputes. If the taxpayer resolves the matter of a VAB petition with the Property Appraiser, the taxpayer must immediately notify the VAB that the petition is withdrawn by submitting a withdrawal form.
Petitions to VAB
Petitions are also available online. Completed petitions should be filed with the VAB. There is a filing fee of $15 for petitions related to a single parcel. For petitions containing contiguous parcels, the filing fee is $15 for the petition, plus $5 for each contiguous parcel. The filing fee is non-refundable and checks should be made payable to the Value Adjustment Board and paid before the petition is considered "filed."
The VAB is open Monday through Friday (except holidays) from 8 am to 5 pm, and is located in Room 342 of the County Administration Building, 330 W Church Street, Bartow. A petition may also be filed online at this website under "Online Petition" and the fee must be paid with a credit card. The taxpayer will be charged a convenience fee of 3.5% in addition to the filing fee when using a credit card.
Good Cause Hearings
The Clerk may accept, but not schedule for hearing, a VAB petition filed after the statutory deadline has expired. A petition and a non-refundable $15 filing fee may be submitted to the VAB or its designee for a good cause determination if the petition is accompanied by a written explanation with proof of the extraordinary circumstances which delayed the filing. If there is a determination that the taxpayer has shown good cause for missing the deadline, a hearing will be scheduled.
All hearings are quasi-judicial, and everyone appearing before the special magistrate may be required to testify under oath. The type of appeal will determine the type of information, documents, and/or evidence that needs to be furnished before the hearing. It is the taxpayer's responsibility to furnish whatever is needed at the required time. Evidence exchange is governed by Florida Administrative Code Rule 12D-9.020.
If someone will be representing a petitioner at the hearing, and the representative wants to receive confidential taxpayer information on the petitioned property from the Property Appraiser, the representative must have written authorization from the taxpayer. This also applies to immediate family members if their names are not included on the deed. Please note that if the petitioner does not appear for his or her hearing, the petition will be denied. Some waiting should be expected, so you may wish to bring a book or a magazine. For this reason, we discourage bringing children to the hearings.
Section 194.014, Florida Statutes requires that taxpayers who file a petition from the Value Adjustment Board (VAB) make a partial tax payment before the date of delinquency which is April 1 (For example: before April 1, 2020, for 2019 taxes). If the petitioner fails to make the payment required by this subsection, the VAB is required to deny the petition.
Hearing dates are also noticed on the Board of County Commissioners' meeting agendas. For questions regarding hearing dates or times, please email Jennifer Leidinger or call 863-534-6502.
One copy of all evidence to be considered during your VAB hearing must be submitted to the Property Appraiser at least 15 days prior to your scheduled hearing date. If you do not submit your evidence timely, your evidence may not be considered at the hearing. The Clerk's office will not forward evidence received in our office to the Property Appraiser's office.
Applications for Special Magistrates for the 2021 Tax Years
The VAB is now accepting applications for Special Magistrates for the 2021 tax years. Applications must be received by May 31, 2021. If you are interested in serving as a Special Magistrate for Polk County please email firstname.lastname@example.org regarding the application packets.
The filing deadline for Agriculture Exemptions is July 1, 2021
The filing deadline for Exemptions is July 30, 2021
The filing deadline for filing Petitions is September 13, 2021, at 5:00 pm
A number of resources related to the Value Adjustment Board are available through the Florida Department of Revenue's website. Resources include:
- VAB Forms
- Florida Department of Revenue Uniform Policies and Procedures for Value Adjustment Boards
- Other Legal Resources, including Statutory Criteria
- Reference Materials, including Guidelines: Page six contains important information about required payments before the tax delinquency date to avoid denial of your petition and page eight includes links to internet resources such as the Government-in-the Sunshine Manual and the Taxpayer Guide to Petitions to the Value Adjustment Board
- Department of Revenue's Petition Guide for Taxpayers can be found in Florida Statute 194.014.
- Bill Braswell, Chairman
Polk County Board of County Commissioners
P.O. Box 9005
Bartow, FL 33831
Email Bill Braswell
- John Hall
Polk County Board of County Commissioners
P.O. Box 9005
Bartow, FL 33831
Email John Hall
- William Cloyd
4201 Old Kathleen Road
Lakeland, FL 33803
Email William Cloyd
- Lee Saunders
5529 U.S. 98 N
Lakeland, FL 33809
Email Lee Saunders
- Lynn Wilson
Polk County School Board
P.O. Box 391
Bartow, FL 33831
Email Lynn Wilson
- Jim Behm
- Joseph Haynes Davis
- Robert Hicks
- Andrea Johnson
- Eduardo Morrell
- Steve Nystrom
- Lori Rutland
- Robert Sutte
- Elizabeth Young
All properties in Florida are subject to real and tangible property taxes, unless expressly exempt or immune from taxation. The Value Adjustment Board (VAB) was created to provide citizens a forum to address complaints when they believe the Property Appraiser overvalued their property or improperly denied an exemption or classification or that the Tax Collector improperly denied a tax deferral. Citizens may also institute legal action in circuit court without filing a VAB petition.
Filing A Petition
The cost of filing a petition with the VAB is $15 per petition, plus additional $5 per parcel for petitions containing contiguous parcels. All filing fees are nonrefundable and a petition will not be considered “filed” unless the filing fee is received with the petition. Petition fees must be paid by cash or check when filing by mail or in person. If filing online, the petition fee may be paid by credit card; however, a convenience fee of 3.5% will be charged in addition to the petition fee.
Filing fees are waived for the following:
- Petitions regarding the denial of a timely filed application for Homestead Exemption under Section 196.151, Florida Statute (F.S.)
- Petitions regarding denial of tax deferrals under Section 197.2425, F.S.
- Petitions from taxpayers who demonstrate at the time of filing, by appropriate certificate or other documentation issued by the Department of Children and Families and submitted with the petition, that the petitioner is then an eligible recipient of temporary assistance under Chapter 414, F.S.
If filing by mail, send to: Polk County Value Adjustment Board, P.O. Box 988, Bartow, FL 33831; Attention Jennifer Leidinger, VAB Clerk.
If filing in person, go to: Polk County Value Adjustment Board, County Administration Building, 330 West Church Street, Room 342, Bartow, Florida.
Only petitions for single parcels may be filed online. Those with contiguous parcels must be filed by mail or in person. Petitions that are emailed or faxed will not be accepted.
Any questions regarding petitions should be directed to Jennifer Leidinger at 863-534-6502.
Special Magistrates shall meet all the requirements of Florida Statute 194.035 and preference will be given to those with 5 years of experience who are designated members of nationally recognized associations, and applicants who are familiar with Axia.
Prior to holding hearings, Special Magistrates shall provide a certification of completion of the Department of Revenue (DOR) VAB training for 2019.
Special Magistrates shall complete their recommendations for each hearing over which they preside within 20 business days after the date of each hearing.
Special Magistrates may invoice periodically as desired. However, the final bill for the 2018 Value Adjustment Board term should be submitted no later than 30 business days after the last hearing date. All invoices should be itemized by hearing date and show hours at hearing separately from hours preparing recommendations.
Ex Parte Communication Prohibited
Rule 12D-9.017(1) (a)
No participant, including the petitioner, the Property Appraiser, the Board Clerk the Special Magistrate, a member of the Value Adjustment board, or other person directly or indirectly interested in the proceeding, nor anyone authorized to act on behalf of any party shall communicate with a member of the Board or the Special Magistrate regarding the issues in the case without the other party being present or without providing a copy of any written communication to the other party.
The ex parte communication shall not be considered by the Board or the Special Magistrate unless all parties have been notified about the ex parte communication, and no party objects, and all parties have been notified about the ex parte communication, and no party objects, and all parties have on opportunity during the hearing to cross-examine, object, or otherwise address the communication.
Should a VAB member or Special Magistrate recognize that they are the recipient of an ex parte communication, they shall terminate the conversation or review of written ex parte communication, the VAB member or Special Magistrate shall forward the document to the VAB clerk at by email. In the event of a verbal communication, the VAB member or Special Magistrate shall reduce the substance of the conversation to writing and provide a copy to the Clerk as above. The Clerk shall place the document or memorandum of conversation in the file and provide a copy to the opposing party or both parties if the communication is from a third party. VAB members and Special Magistrates with office staff who handle their correspondence shall educate such staff on the ex parte communication prohibition.
In the spring the Clerk advertises for Special Magistrates, who are hired by the VAB to conduct hearings and make recommendations upon which the VAB will take action.
The VAB meets to select Special Magistrates and approve VAB internal procedures and policies. The VAB shall hold an organizational meeting and shall make Florida Administrative Code Rule 12D-9 and 12D-10 and these local procedures available to taxpayers on the Clerk’s website.
The Property Appraiser mails to property owners the denial letter regarding exemption and classification requests by July 1; property owners have 30 days from the date of the Property Appraiser’s denial letter to file a petition with the VAB appealing the denial.
The Property Appraiser mails TRIM notices, containing the valuations of property, in August. Property owners have 25 days from the date of the Property Appraiser’s notice to file a petition with the VAB contesting that valuation.
Florida Administrative Code Rule 12D-9 and 12D-10 provides information regarding the scheduling of VAB hearings, evidence exchange with the Property Appraiser, rescheduling hearings, missed deadlines, and other procedural matters.
Hearings are held before the Special Magistrate on weekdays between 9 am and 5 pm in the Neil Combee Administration Building, 330 West Church Street, Bartow, Florida. All hearing rooms in the Neil Combee Administration Building meet the requirements of the Americans with Disability Act (ADA). Parking is available in any of the parking lots surrounding the Neil Combee Building. If a telephone hearing is desired, arrangements must be made in advance by contacting Jennifer Leidinger at 863-534-6502.
After all hearings have been conducted; the VAB meets to act on Special Magistrate recommendations without further hearings, and to certify the tax roll. Petitioners will receive a copy of the Special Magistrate’s recommended decision prior to the VAB meeting. That notice will provide the date of the meeting, if known. Petitioners can check the Clerk’s website for the final meeting date or call the Clerk at 863-534-6502.
Tax refunds and corrected tax bills will be distributed by the Tax Collector’s Office following approval of Special Magistrate recommendations by the VAB.
The Clerk will mail petitioners the final decision regarding their petitions within 20 days of the final VAB public meeting.
The next step, for property owners who feel they did not get results through the VAB process is to file a case in circuit court.
Petitioners should consult an attorney for the time frame for filing a law suit in circuit court.