A How to craft and present a winning property tax case INSIDE

Vol. 15, No. 4, April 2009
INSIDER TIPS
INSIDE
▼ Ohio Supreme Court uses AEI
ruling as measure of business
value .....................................3
▼ Ten tips for the proper
allocation of business value..4
▼ California refunds may be
harder to get, unless you plan
ahead ....................................5
▼ High Court won’t hear
California parcel tax case .....5
▼ State Updates .......................6
▼ Spotlight on Washington ......8
COMING SOON
• Environmental issues in
property taxation
• Legislative wrap-up
• More tips, tactics and
strategies on how to make
your appeal
• Retail property and the
recession: Where are we now?
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How to craft and present a
winning property tax case
t the IPT’s 2008 Property Tax Symposium, the Hon. R.
Bruce Johnson, a commissioner with the Utah State Tax
Commission, provided an insider’s perspective on making
a winning case.
PTA asked him to share some insights from his presentation (A View from the Bench—How to Present Your Case), and he
generously agreed.
While jurisdictions vary, the principles he discusses will help
property tax professionals regardless of location. This month, we
will look at issues of evidence; in a future issue, we’ll cover his strategies for preparing witnesses and researching your opposition.
A
Educate and inform
Perhaps the biggest mistake taxpayers make is assuming the
tax tribunal understands the property or industry in question.
“The taxpayer knows the property intimately. The government
assessor has probably inspected the property. The tribunal, however, has not inspected the property and knows only what the
witnesses tell it,” says Johnson.
(Note: If you represent the taxpayer, make sure you know the
property. Tour the facility, examine the products and understand
the process, he counsels.)
This means you have an opportunity to educate and inform.
But it also means that failing to do so can be costly. As Johnson points out, the taxpayer almost always bears the burden
of proof.
If the tribunal is confused about the industry, obsolescence,
square footage, etc., it may well decide the taxpayer has not carried its burden of proof, he warns.
Sometimes cases wait a long time for a decision and the
clearest exhibits are the likeliest to be used to refresh the judge’s
memory. “As you move up through the appeal process, it is critical to have the right facts in the record in a way that they can
easily be called to a judge’s attention,” he says.
Do a draft
One way to help solidify your case—and help out the tribunal—is
to offer to draft the findings of fact.
This provides a good roadmap for your case and gives you the
opportunity to ensure you have witnesses and exhibits to support
2
Property Tax Alert
April 2009
each finding, he explains. And when the hearing is
over, it will remind the judge of the evidence you
presented and the crucial points of your case.
Properly drafted, the findings can often lead
the judge to the legal conclusion that you want,
he says. “Sometimes judges are a little lazy or,
more often, overworked. If your findings are
well-supported, well-drafted and do not overreach, the judge might be tempted to just adopt
them verbatim.”
Even if you lose, if the tribunal has adopted
a lot of your findings of fact, you will be better
positioned for an appeal, he says.
Tip: Each proposed finding should have a
paragraph in the stipulation or an exhibit that
supports it, Johnson advises.
Show and tell
The tribunal hears the information only once, and
it may hear several other cases before it renders
a decision. “Some judges are great note-takers.
Others are not,” he warns.
If there are critical facts you want to make
sure the judge reviews when writing the decision, try to put them in an easily accessible
exhibit. For example:
• photographs of the subject property
• graphs or charts indicating industry condi-
tions or economic obsolescence
comparisons of relevant comparables
Tip: Don’t forgo the opening statement.
Make it clear and concise—and deliver what you
promise, he says.
• side-by-side
Quantify
Another costly mistake, Johnson says, is to
prove the existence of a condition, but to fail
to quantify it.
For example, a taxpayer may prove that environmental contamination exists. But without
evidence as to the effect on value, “the judge may
decline to make his or her own estimate and
hold that the taxpayer didn’t prove the amount
of the appropriate reduction.”
Consider ‘risks of proof’
“You need to make sure you have competent, admissible evidence on your key points,” Johnson
says. Returning to the contamination example,
he acknowledges that a taxpayer may not want
to spend several thousand dollars for an engineering study. “If you don’t have a qualified
expert, however, the government may object
that your witness is not qualified to testify on
the cost to cure. This is a ‘risk of proof.’”
EDITORIAL ADVISORY BOARD
Todd Barron, CMI
President
Barron Corporate Tax
Solutions, Ltd.
Glen Ellyn, Ill.
Kyle Caruthers
Corporate Property
Tax Manager
Coca-Cola Enterprises Inc.
Atlanta
Mark Semerad
Manager, Property Tax
Level 3 Communications
Broomfield, Colo.
William C. Coleman III
Vice President
Marvin F. Poer and Co.
Orlando
Deborah Davis
President
Strategic Tax Services Inc.
Chicago
Charles E. Gilliland, Ph.D.
Research Economist
Real Estate Center
Texas A&M University
College Station, Texas
Jim Harden
Principal
Transaction Advisory Group,
Energy Valuation Services
Ernst & Young LLP
Houston
Alexander Hazen
President
International Appraisal Co.
Upper Saddle River, N.J.
Betty McIntosh
Director
Location Incentives Group
Cushman & Wakefield
Atlanta
Dennis C. Neilson, CMI
Sandwich, Ill.
Partner (retired)
Advantax Group
Doug Turner
Director of Property Taxes
General Electric Company Inc.
Atlanta
Fred Vance, CMI
Principal
Fred Vance & Associates LLC
La Crescenta, Calif.
PROPERTY TAX ALERT (ISSN 1088-291X) is published monthly by
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[email protected]
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[email protected]
Technical Consultant
Joseph Calvanico,
Midwest Director
of Property Tax Services
Grant Thornton LLP
Chicago
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April 2009
A good expert witness can help you win your
case, he says. (For more advice on witnesses, see
next month’s issue.)
Stipulate, but not too much
Johnson advised his IPT audience to “Stipulate as
much as possible, but don’t forgo good witnesses.”
It’s about finding a good balance. Stipulating
ensures that key facts are in the record. This takes
some of the pressure off your witnesses. It also allows you to spend your time in the hearing on the
matters you really want the judge to hear, “before
his or her eyes start to glaze over,” he explains.
But you want to make sure you’ve painted a
vivid picture of you situation. “You also want the
judge to ‘feel your pain’ and think an injustice has
been done. You want to tell a story.”
So, for instance, even if the government attorney is willing to stipulate that the basement
area is unused and unusable, Johnson suggests
“it may be a good tactic to have a witness explain
that the basement floods every time it rains and
that there is only seven feet of clearance. It helps
to paint a picture of the whole facility.”
Arrive prepared
You can have the best possible presentation but
if you can’t deliver it efficiently and effectively, it
won’t matter—and you may end up frustrating
everyone involved.
Before the hearing, arrange to set up and
test any equipment you will need. And make sure
the tribunal can accommodate your evidence and
get it in the record, he warns. “I’ve seen many
instances where a taxpayer has a map or plat
that is very helpful, but they haven’t made any
copies for anyone, or the copies are of such poor
quality that they lose their impact. Color copies
of colored charts and graphs are usually worth
the extra cost.”
He offers an example of what works:
“We had a hearing involving a telecommunications company just recently. Obsolescence
is almost always an issue in telecommunications cases. The taxpayer brought a small
length of old copper cable and a small length
of fiber optic cable. Neither was offered as an
exhibit, but we were able to handle the cables
and observe first-hand the differences that the
witness was explaining. It was helpful to our
understanding of the testimony and helped
keep our attention.”
Property Tax Alert
3
Tip: Have plenty of copies, and—if it’s allowed—provide binders, Johnson advises.
Consider a settlement
Many property tax cases are valuation cases, and
valuation is usually a question of fact. “Appellate
courts are unlikely to overturn findings of fact
if there is any evidence in the record to support
the decision. But it doesn’t have to reach the ‘all
or nothing’ stage.”
Sometimes, the assessor believes the jurisdiction can’t afford all the relief requested in one
year. But you may be able to get some relief this
year and come back for more the next, he says.
“If you can get most of the loaf in a reasonable
settlement at a lower level, you should give it
serious consideration.”✦
■ OHIO SUPREME COURT
AEI’s legacy: Does sales price
now constitute market value?
The impact of the Ohio Supreme Court’s decision in AEI Net Lease Income and Growth Fund
v. Erie County Board of Revision is already
having an impact.
In AEI, the court ruled that the sale price of
property sold as part of a sale-leaseback transaction may be used to determine the property’s
value—despite the fact the property was purchased for investment purposes. (For details, see
the January 2009 issue of PTA.)
The same court recently rejected a similar
claim regarding the impact of sale-leaseback
transactions on valuations. In CCleveland OH
Realty I, LLC v. Cuyahoga County Board of
Revision, the court determined the taxpayer
essentially argued a similar theory with similar facts and the court rejected that claim accordingly.
“In both cases, the BTA properly disregarded
the appraisal evidence because a recent arm’slength sale price established the value of the
property,” the court said.
Bob Mellinger, senior consultant, Marvin
F. Poer & Company, Cincinnati, and a harsh
critic of the AEI ruling, is not pleased. Ohio claims
to be a market value state but is not acting as
such, he says.
“To simply overlook the evidence before them
and state that one has to be familiar with Ohio
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4
Property Tax Alert
case law to understand the decisions in these
cases is nothing more than an acknowledgement
of their double standard. Are we a market value
state or are we not?”
Just how broadly the AEI ruling will be
interpreted remains to be seen. Will all sales be
assumed to reflect market value?
“It will be interesting to see if any particular
fact pattern can get them away from that answer,”
says Joseph J. Calvanico, director, Grant Thornton, Chicago, also a critic of the AEI ruling. ✦
April 2009
(5)
■ TOP 10 TIPS
Manage tax liability on a
going-concern acquisition
(6)
By Michael Allen, principal, Ryan
Editor’s note: In last month’s Practitioner Perspectives, Michael Allen went into detail about
how the proper allocation of value can prevent the
going-concern value from being used to represent
the entire real estate value. He also provided PTA
with a considerably simpler top-10 approach to
the issue. These tips don’t replace last month’s indepth analysis; they supplement it and provide a
quick checklist for upcoming transactions.
(1) The buyer and seller should agree to a purchase price allocation and document those
values at or before the closing. Doing so in
writing will formally and precisely allocate
the total going-concern value among the real
estate, the tangible personal property (TPP),
and the intangible personal property (IPP).
(2) The buyer and seller should negotiate the
allocations incorporated into the actual
sales agreement and closing documents.
These allocations must be reasonable and
supported by generally accepted appraisal
practices, standards, and guidelines.
(3) If an appraisal is prepared for the lender,
all Uniform Standards of Professional
Appraisal Practice required allocations of
non-realty issues should be documented
within the report and used as the basis for
the allocations at closing. Otherwise, an
independent study should be commissioned
and used prior to closing.
(4) When allocating IPP at closing, it is preferable to allocate this total amount into
the five permitted Financial Accounting
(7)
(8)
(9)
Standards Board (FASB) categories of
FASB No. 141 to avoid the entire IPP
amount being subsequently characterized
as non-depreciable “goodwill.”
At closing, the buyer should always require the seller to deliver a formal bill of
sale evidencing the sale and transfer of
title for only the TPP, with a designated
consideration shown therein. The deed
transferring title to the real estate should
also identify only the real estate value, if
permitted locally. A separate bill of sale
for the IPP with its own separate considerations is also recommended.
At closing, the buyer, seller and associated
representatives should always ensure that
any real estate recordation or transfer taxes
are reported and paid, based only on the
segregated real estate value of the sales
price, not the larger, total going-concern
sales price.
Before closing, the buyer and seller should
consult with their tax advisors, attorneys,
accountants and/or auditors to confirm there
are no adverse effects on any existing special
tax status for the company. For example, this
would be crucial for a REIT buyer where
there are maximum amounts of non-realty
that can be acquired and exploited without
jeopardizing its special IRS status.
Comprehensive asset tagging or rationalization should be conducted and completed
prior to closing, whenever possible. The
resulting market value of the TPP being
purchased should be identified and recorded on the bill of sale that is delivered
at closing to the buyer. Alternatively, a
post-closing review should be conducted
as soon as possible to set those values
and remove any phantom assets from the
seller’s transferred asset ledger. When dealing with a hotel property, this review and
adjustment should take place before any
large refurbishments of rooms and facilities are undertaken by the buyer. This is
particularly important for a REIT.
Buyers must pay special attention to ensure
the sales price paid and allocated to the real
property alone, as shown on the closing
statements, is consistently disclosed and
reported. This is particularly important in
taxing jurisdictions where sales prices and
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April 2009
transfer tax payments are disclosed to the
assessor who may be utilizing recent sales
prices as the basis for future ad valorem
real property assessments. The same care
must be exercised when completing and
filing any required income and expense
forms. Generally, these forms can serve
as useful vehicles to further establish and
separate the real estate value for assessment purposes. Assessors will likely use the
reported value as the unadjusted basis for
the next reassessment for ad valorem real
property tax purposes, if consistently and
repeatedly disclosed contemporaneously to
the local jurisdiction.
(10) The buyer must review carefully the first
post-closing real and personal property
tax assessments when issued by the local
assessor to ensure they reflect only the allocated, reported and applicable components
of the total sales price. If discrepancies exist, the buyer must file a timely appeal and
aggressively challenge the proposed real or
personal property tax assessment. This is
particularly important in California when
new Proposition 13 base year supplemental
assessments are issued.✦
■ CALIFORNIA
New BOE procedures may
mean refund delays
The California Board of Equalization has taken
action on AB2411, which set time limits for refund claims. And, depending whether you check
the right box, it could make refunds more difficult
to obtain.
Letter No. 2009/016 specifies that, when filing an application for an assessment reduction,
taxpayers can designate that the application also
be considered a claim for refund.
Property Tax Alert
5
If the appeal application is filed not designated as a refund claim, the taxpayer must file
a separate refund claim, explains Fred Vance,
principal, Fred Vance & Associates, La Crescenta, Calif.
Previously, many counties automatically
refunded the excess tax amount after the local
appeals board ruled in favor of a lower assessment. The new procedure “is going to make it a
longer process,” he warns.
Scott Donald, vice president, Pacific division of Marvin F. Poer & Co. in Irvine, agrees.
He adds that the change “allows for greater opportunity, at least in the short run, to minimize
payment of refunds.”
It’s now more important for businesses to
track to the process—or have someone they
trust do it for them, he adds. “Everything must
be checked carefully prior to filing documents. A
great reduction can be nullified if either the box
isn’t checked or the refund window closes.
The BOE outlines how to file a separate refund claim here: www.boe.ca.gov/proptaxes/pdf/
lta09016.pdf. ✦
High Court won’t hear
California parcel tax case
The U.S. Supreme Court has denied a property
owner’s request to decide whether a parcel tax
that was assessed at a flat rate violated the Equal
Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution.
In Neilson v. California City, the property
owner claimed the law enacting the tax denied
equal protection because ownership of property
alone triggered the tax, and the parcel tax was
not proportional to property value. The California Court of Appeal held that there is no legal
requirement that a parcel tax be assessed in
proportion to the value of the property. The
California Supreme Court and the U.S. Supreme
Court denied review.✦
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6
Property Tax Alert
April 2009
generate more proceeds than were
necessary to refinance the district’s
targeted debt, the district was also
prohibited from setting or maintaining
property tax rates at a higher level than
necessary to refinance that targeted
debt. (Opinion No. 06-1102, Office of
the California Attorney General)
The Dept. of Treasury has revised the
rules that relate to the State Tax Commission’s authority under the General
Property Tax Act, the authority transferred from the State Board of Equalization and the State Board of Assessors,
the authority under the State Tax Commission Act, the Plant Rehabilitation
and Industrial Development Districts
Act, and the Commercial Housing
Facilities Exemption Certificates Act.
The rules also provide information on
appearing at STC meetings and hearings. (Rule 209.1-111)
COLORADO
MISSISSIPPI
Legislation that allowed local school
districts to collect and expend revenues
in excess of the property tax revenue
limitations of Article X, Sec. 20, of the
Colorado Constitution is constitutional.
(Mesa County Board of County Commissioners v. Colorado, Colorado Supreme Court, No. 08SA216)
A county may not reduce the personal
property taxes of an industry based
upon the freeport warehouse exemption when the industry did not file the
required documentation seeking the exemption by the statutory deadline. Such
exemptions must be approved by taxing
authorities upon proper application, and
tax exemptions cannot be made retroactive. Further, the applicable statute
contains no exceptions and does not
provide for any discretion in waiving the
filing deadline. (Opinion No. 2009-00036,
Mississippi Attorney General)
FEDERAL
States and localities would be prohibited
for five years from imposing “a new discriminatory tax” on cell phone services,
providers or property under proposed
legislation (HR1521) introduced in the
U.S. House of Representatives.
ARIZONA
HB1344 clarifies that an assessment
adjustment made by the county board
of equalization is applicable only to the
year the assessment was made. The
legislation also allows taxpayers to appeal decisions of the board if they either
exhaust their administrative remedies
with the board or failed to because they
were not sent the statutorily required
notice of value change. The provision
relating to situations in which the taxpayer did not receive notice was added
to secure the taxpayer’s right to appeal
when the taxpayer was not at fault.
State Updates
ARKANSAS
KANSAS
HB1345 provides an alternative assessment date for tangible personal property
acquired after Jan. 1 of the assessment
year. It allows such property to be assessed according to its market value
on either Jan. 1 or the date the property was acquired, if it was acquired
between Jan. 2 and May 31.
The Attorney General opined that proposed legislation (HB2009) to repeal the
exemption for out-of-state utilities with
transmission lines and appurtenances
in the state—while still providing the
exemption to in-state utilities—would
be invalid under the federal Supremacy
Clause. (Opinion No. 2009-8)
HB1386 allows delinquent personal
property taxes and penalties to be deducted from the proceeds of the sale of
land for delinquent real property taxes.
HB1841 excludes the value of nonproducing mineral interests from assessment.
CALIFORNIA
A proposed amendment to the newconstruction-reassessment provisions
of the state constitution will be submitted for voter approval at the June 8,
2010, general election. If adopted, the
proposal would remove qualifications
from the exclusion from the definition
of “newly constructed” for seismic retrofitting improvements or improvements
utilizing earthquake hazard mitigation
technologies. (AB18)
Because a California school district,
lacking voter approval, could not issue
refunding general obligation bonds to
KENTUCKY
Effective Jan. 1, 2010, taxes will be
due and payable on or before Dec. 31
(currently, Sept. 15) of the assessment
year. For payment in full by Nov. 1 of the
assessment year, taxpayers will receive
a 2% discount. For payment between
Jan. 1 and Jan. 31 of the year following
the assessment year, taxpayers will be
required to pay a penalty of 5% of the
taxes due and unpaid. For taxes paid
after Jan. 31 the penalty is 10% of the
taxes due and unpaid. In addition, the
sale of certificates of delinquency is
moved from the sheriff’s office to the
county clerk’s office. (HB262)
MICHIGAN
A township did not have the authority
to retroactively uncap and increase the
taxpayers’ property value based on an
oversight of paperwork in the assessor’s office. (Morehouse v. Township of
Mackinaw, Michigan Court of Appeals,
No. 281483)
NEBRASKA
A large portion of the state’s property
tax regulations have been amended
to reflect statutory change. Among
the highlights: (1) “Fixtures” are described in the real property regulations
as items which are common to the
maintenance and operation of structures such as central air conditioning,
heating system, common lighting and
plumbing, all of which add to the value
of a structure or appreciably prolong
the useful life of the structure; and (2)
trade fixtures such as machinery and
equipment used directly in commercial,
manufacturing or processing activities
conducted on real property, regardless
of whether the real property is owned
or leased, are added to the definition of
“tangible personal property” within the
personal property regulations. (Reg.
Chs. 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 20, 22, 23, 41,
42, 43, 45, 52, and 90, DOR Property
Assessment Division)
NEW MEXICO
The New Mexico Legislature may not
enact, by statute, a tax exemption for
real property owned by a third party
and leased to a public school district
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April 2009
for educational purposes. ( Opinion
Request—Tax Exemption for Property
Leased to a School, New Mexico Attorney General)
NORTH DAKOTA
A centrally assessed wind turbine
electric generation unit, with a nameplate generation capacity of 100 kilowatts or more, must be valued at 3%
of assessed value, if construction is
completed before Jan. 1, 2015 (previously, 2011). However, if a purchased
power agreement was executed after
April 30, 2005, and construction was
completed after April 30, 2005, and
before July 1, 2006, it must be valued
at 1.5%. In addition, if construction
is completed after June 30, 2006,
and before Jan. 1, 2015 (previously,
2011), it must be valued at 1.5% as
well. (SB2031)
OHIO
For valuation purposes, federally mandated use restrictions imposed pursuant to IRC §42 (the federal Low Income
Housing Tax Credit) may be considered.
(Woda Ivy Glen Limited Partnership v.
Fayette County Board of Revision, Ohio
Supreme Court, No. 2008-0312)
PENNSYLVANIA
Where a taxpayer demonstrated good
faith in addressing delinquent Philadelphia real estate taxes on property
he purchased and did not show any
negligence or intent to defraud the
city, the Tax Review Board could abate
one-half of the interest on the delinquent tax and all the penalties that
had been assessed. The taxpayer was
willing to pay taxes that accrued prior
to his ownership of the real estate,
had ongoing efforts to rehabilitate the
property and was making good faith
efforts to pay the current year tax after
purchasing the property. (In re: Ali,
Philadelphia Tax Review Board, No.
36REINPZZ3433)
SOUTH DAKOTA
Overriding Gov. M. Michael Rounds’
veto, the Legislature has enacted
HB1197, which will allow a single-family
dwelling that is under construction or
is listed for sale by a contractor to
be classified as an “owner-occupied
single-family dwelling” for local property
tax purposes.
Property Tax Alert
TEXAS
A taxpayer was found liable for personal property tax owed on office
equipment that was imposed by a
school district, but was not liable for a
similar county tax because a rebuttable
presumption of liability did not apply
to the county tax. The school district
and the county both sent delinquent
tax notices to the address where the
property was located, but the county
improperly addressed its notice to an
entity that had since gone bankrupt.
Although a rebuttable presumption of
tax liability is granted based on a taxing
unit’s current and delinquent tax rolls,
the presumption does not apply when
the identity of the taxpayer on the rolls
does not match the taxpayer being
sued by the taxing unit. Absent the
presumption, the county failed to offer
sufficient evidence that the taxpayer
was the owner of the property. In addition, the county could not rely on the
presumption given to the school district
because the taxing units were distinct
and evidence that the school district
performed its tax collection duties did
not create evidence that the county
had done the same. (Maximum Medical
Improvement, Inc. v. County of Dallas,
Texas Court of Appeals, Fifth District,
No. 05-07-00854-CV)
A community development housing
organization that had property held
in escrow until it received approval by
state and federal housing authorities
did not qualify for a charitable exemption because it did not own the
property during the period it was in
escrow. ( Hidalgo County Appraisal
District v. HIC Texas I, LLC, Texas
Court of Appeals, Thirteenth District,
No. 13-07-083-CV)
VIRGINIA
The Attorney General has opined that
the meaning of the term “original cost”
(as used in the statutory provision pertaining to the classification of tangible
personal property) means the cost of
the personal property employed in a
trade or business that was paid by the
owner who first purchased the personal
property from either a manufacturer or
dealer. (Opinion No. 09-109)
WASHINGTON
The Dept. of Revenue is preparing to
revise WAC 458-16-260 as it relates to
7
the exemption for nonprofit hospitals.
The DOR invites interested parties to
contact Harold Smith at (360) 570-5864
or [email protected] to be added
to the list of stakeholders who will be
notified of the public hearings that
will be held as part of the rulemaking
process. (Property Tax Special Notice,
Washington Dept. of Revenue)
WISCONSIN
A trial court erred in concluding a city’s
appraisal of commercial real estate
was excessive, because the taxpayer
failed to rebut the statutory presumption that the assessment was correct.
The property, a commuter parking
lot adjoining an airport, could not be
valued based on a recent arm’s-length
sale because there was no recent sale
of the subject property that could be
used to assess its value. Also, sales
of reasonably comparable properties
could not be utilized because there
were none on which to base such an
analysis. The court concluded that
the income generated by the parking
facility appertained to the land and,
therefore, was properly considered
in the city’s assessment. Further, the
city’s assessment did not violate the
Uniformity Clause of the Wisconsin
Constitution, because there was no
evidence that the assessor singled
out the taxpayer’s property for assessment, nor was there any evidence that
the assessor used an arbitrary method
of assessment. (Allright Properties,
Inc. v. City of Milwaukee, Wisconsin
Court of Appeals, No. 2008AP510)
WYOMING
A rural health care district may levy
property taxes up to four mills (previously, two mills). (HB145)
For any property subject to assessment
on or after Jan. 1, 2009, contiguous or
noncontiguous parcels of land under
one operation, owned or leased, may
be classified as agricultural land if the
land is not part of a platted subdivision,
except for a parcel of 35 acres or more
that otherwise qualifies as agricultural
land. (HB9)
A new property tax is levied on the
gross product of helium produced in
Wyoming. The helium is valued for taxation as natural gas and is subject to the
same tax rates. (HB287)
THIS IS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL — it is unlawful to photocopy. Property Tax Alert (800) 449-8114
8
Property Tax Alert
April 2009
SPOTLIGHT ON WASHINGTON
TAXABLE PROPERTY
All property, unless specifically exempt, is taxable.
EXEMPTIONS
Washington’s constitution, unlike many state constitutions,
does not limit the Legislature’s power to grant exemptions.
This has resulted in a plethora of exemptions, including
those for business inventory; freeport goods; air pollution
control equipment; cargo containers; custom computer
software; exports; farm animals, machinery and equipment;
forest land; in-transit property; interstate commerce; master
copies of computer software; medical research facilities;
motor vehicles; and property of value of less than $500.
VALUATION AND ASSESSMENT
All property is valued at 100% of its true and fair value in
money and assessed on the same basis (unless specifically
provided otherwise by law).
The county assessor values all property within the county
that is not valued by the Dept. of Revenue. DOR values
the operating property of interstate and intercounty public
utilities.
County assessors go through a year-round assessment
cycle. All property in a county is revalued at least once
every four years, and physically inspected at least once
every six years. In some counties, properties are revalued
each year and require physical inspection at least once
every six years.
Operating property of utility companies is entered into the
tax rolls at its assessed value. All other property is assessed
the same as the general property of the county.
Personal property reports are due April 30.
ASSESSMENT DATE
Jan. 1
PAYMENT DUE DATES
Property taxes can be paid in two installments, due April
30 and Oct. 31.
ASSESSMENT CORRECTIONS
year of the due date of the taxes for the year in which the
assessment is made.
Any person receiving notice of an omitted property or omitted value assessment may appeal to the county board of
equalization.
REFUNDS
Refund claims for a tax paid under protest must be filed
before June 30 following the year in which the tax became
payable. Refund claims under other statutes (that is, those
not requiring a protested payment) must be filed within
three years after payment of the tax.
A claim for refund that is rejected by the county treasurer
may be appealed to the Board of Tax Appeals.
APPEALS
A taxpayer (or owner) may petition an assessor for an
assessment reduction. The assessor must reconsider the
valuation of the real property at issue within 120 days of
the filing of a petition.
Taxpayers may petition the county board of equalization
for a change in the county assessor’s valuation of their
property or for any other reason authorized by statute. The
petition must be filed with the board of equalization on or
before July 1 of the year of the assessment or determination, within 30 days after the date an assessment, value
change notice or other notice has been mailed, or within a
time limit of up to 60 days adopted by the county legislative
authority, whichever is later.
The board of equalization can raise, lower or sustain the
county assessor’s value.
Taxpayers dissatisfied with the decision of the county board
of equalization may appeal to the Board of Tax Appeals.
The petition must be filed within 30 days after the county
board’s notice is mailed.
Taxpayers who own centrally assessed property but do
not obtain relief from the DOR may file an appeal with
the State Tax Appeals Board. A notice of appeal may be
filed with the board within 30 days after the issuance of
the decision.
Property omitted from the assessment roll of a preceding
year will be included in the current year’s assessment roll.
Taxpayers may appeal a State Tax Appeals Board decision to the Superior Court if all taxes, penalty and interest
have been paid. Judicial review of a BTA decision is tried
as a new case.
The assessor may go back three assessment years to assess
omitted property. (The three-year lookback period does not
refer to revaluation or reassessment of property, but simply
confers authority on the assessor to make a supplemental
assessment of property omitted from the assessment roll or
erroneously assessed.)
Additionally, an appeal may be taken directly to a Superior Court if it can be shown that the assessor’s action is
unconstitutional, not authorized by statute or arbitrary or
capricious.
When such an omitted assessment is made, the taxes
levied may be paid without penalty or interest within one
As in most states, presumption of correctness is with the
assessor.
THIS IS COPYRIGHTED MATERIAL — it is unlawful to photocopy. Property Tax Alert (800) 449-8114