The bill provides that an appeal to the circuit court for correction of an erroneous local tax assessment filed on or after July 1, 2016, may be conducted as a jury trial, at the discretion of the taxpayer. Additionally, the bill requires that prior to the release of confidential tax information in the course of such appeal, the court orders the parties not to disclose such information to anyone not entitled to receive it. The court also informs the parties that a violation of such an order is punishable as a Class 1 misdemeanor. Finally, the bill requires a proceeding to follow the Uniform Pretrial Schedule Order provided in the Rules of Supreme Court unless the parties agree otherwise.
The most problematic component of the bill for localities is the requirement of appeals in the circuit court to be jury trials. The chief reason being that jurors are not real estate experts, particularly on income-earning commercial and industrial properties. The jurors would not have the ability to do research or ask questions. The proposed changes in the appeals process will lead to more court appeals, clogging up court calendars and increasing judicial costs that must be borne by all taxpayers
VACo is now working to defeat identical legislation in the Senate, SB 597 (Cosgrove). We will continue to provide updates on this legislation.