Most Florida ad valorem property tax cases involve a taxpayer and a county property appraiser. However, a recent case out of Florida has taken a unique turn by placing one county against another. The case at issue brought Pinellas County and the Pasco Property Appraiser head to head to address whether one county was responsible for paying ad valorem property taxes to another for property owned by the first county but located in the other.
Pinellas County filed suit against the Pasco Property Appraiser in May 2015, seeking declaratory and injunctive relief relating to its immunity from ad valorem taxes on 12,400 acres of property owned by Pinellas County but located within Pasco County. The circuit court granted final summary judgment in favor of Pinellas County determining that the 12,400 acres of property owned by Pinellas County but located within Pasco County was, in fact, immune from ad valorem tax.
The Second District Court of Appeals addressed upon appeal the question of whether any property owned by a county, regardless of the property’s geographic location, is immune from taxation or whether the immunity is limited to within the borders of the county. The Pasco Property Appraiser argued that in cases of overlapping sovereignty, the entity acting outside of its territory must be treated as a private entity. Meanwhile, Pinellas County countered that, as a political subdivision of the state of Florida, it was afforded “inherent sovereign immunity” from taxation.
Although the court agreed that the counties were political subdivisions of the state of Florida and their ad valorem taxing authority must yield to the immunity of the state, they disagreed that one county’s taxing authority must yield to another’s. As a result, the court held that the first county’s ranch property was not immune from taxation by the second county.
You don’t have to be a county in Florida to challenge a property appraisers tax assessment. Taxpayers facing ad valorem property tax assessments should consult a competent Florida tax attorney to see what options are available to them to challenge their assessment.
Jeanette Moffa is an attorney who concentrates on state and local taxes at Moffa, Sutton, & Donnini, P.A. She is an executive council member of the American Bar Association Tax Section State and Local Tax Committee and the Florida Bar Tax Section. Ms. Moffa is an author of both the CCH’s Expert Treatise Library: Sales and Use Tax as well the ABA’s Sales and Use Tax Deskbook. In addition, her regular columns on state and local tax issues can be found in State Tax Notes and Actionline, a publication from the Florida Bar’s Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section. She also serves as assistant editor to the Sales and Use Tax Deskbook and Actionline. Ms. Moffa is a regular speaker at the American Bar Association Tax Section conferences, the Institute of Professionals in Taxation, the Florida Bar Tax Section, the Florida Bar Real Property, Probate, and Trust Law Section, and the FICPA. In her free time, she teaches as an adjunct professor at Broward College.