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Property Tax Resources



Each quarter our members take a close look at their local counties and municipalities and review any changes or notable events in the areas of property taxes, tax assessments, personal property tax and other taxation issues, here is the most recent local tax update available.

Alabama Property Tax Updates

UPDATED March 2018

Alabama Legislature Requires Disclosure of Additional Information for Sales Comps in Tax Appeals

In March 2018, the Alabama Legislature passed a bill requiring certain disclosures for those intending to offer sales or lease comparables in tax appeals. SB182, which will be codified as Ala. Code (1975) §40-3-27, requires any party (taxpayer or taxing jurisdiction) introducing a sales or lease comparable in a tax appeal to disclose the following:

(1) whether the proposed comparable property was occupied or unoccupied at the time of the transaction; and

(2) whether the proposed comparable property was subject to any use, deed, or lease restriction at the time of the transaction that prohibits the property, on which a building or structure sits, from being used for the purpose for which the building or structure was designed, constructed, altered, renovated, or modified.

Under the new statute, the party introducing the sales or lease comparable must disclose this information at the time it offers the comparable into evidence. Failing to disclose the information carries a harsh penalty, resulting in the comparable being deemed inadmissible.

The new bill is effective immediately upon execution by the Governor, so taxpayers, counsel and appraisers must diligently review their sales and lease comps to ensure compliance with the new act.

Aaron D. Vansant, Esq.
DonovanFingar, LLC

American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Arizona Property Tax Updates

UPDATED July 2017

Rooftop Solar Systems Cannot be Assessed by the Arizona Department of Revenue

In a unanimous published opinion at the Arizona Court of Appeals, the Court held that rooftop solar systems cannot be assessed or taxed by the Arizona Department of Revenue (“ADOR”).  Starting in 2013, ADOR reversed years of practice by unilaterally deciding that it could assess and tax rooftop solar systems owned by companies that lease and install the systems on customers’ properties.  ADOR argued that the panels were subject to assessment as equipment involved in the operation of an electric generation facility.  Taxpayers – represented by Mooney, Wright & Moore, PLLC – sued for declaratory relief in the Arizona Tax Court, arguing that ADOR did not have authority to assess the rooftop solar systems because they were not part of an electric generation facility.  Taxpayers also argued that the systems had no value for property taxation purposes pursuant to A.R.S. 42-11054(C)(2) because they were designed primarily for on-site consumption. 

Taxpayers sought a quick resolution, filing a motion for summary judgment within thirty days of filing the lawsuit.  Through various discovery delays, however, ADOR did not respond to the motion for summary judgment for over seven months.  Ultimately, ADOR responded with a cross-motion for summary judgment, arguing that ADOR had the authority to tax the solar systems and that, alternatively, A.R.S. 42-11054(C)(2) was unconstitutional and the systems should be assessed by local counties.  The Tax Court issued a declaratory judgment agreeing with Taxpayers that ADOR had no authority to assess the rooftop solar systems.  The Tax Court further ruled, however, that the rooftop systems were assessable locally by the counties and that A.R.S. 42-11054(C)(2) was unconstitutional. 

Both parties appealed.  In a complete victory for Taxpayers, the Court of Appeals (Division 1) affirmed the Tax Court’s ruling that ADOR did not have authority to assess or tax the systems.  The Court also reversed the Tax Court’s ruling that A.R.S. 42-11054(C)(2) was unconstitutional (under either the Exemptions Clause or Uniformity Clause).  The Court also reversed the ruling that the counties in Arizona should be taxing such equipment.  The also reversed the Tax Court’s denial of attorneys’ fees to Taxpayers – holding that the Tax Court abused its discretion by failing to grant Taxpayers their fees and costs as the prevailing party pursuant to A.R.S. 12-348.  Finally, the Court granted Taxpayers request for attorneys’ fees on appeal.  The opinion represents a victory for all taxpayers in curtailing an overreach by ADOR and a significant victory for the solar industry in Arizona.  It can be found at SolarCity Corp. v. Arizona Dept. of Rev., No. 1 CA-TX 15-0008 (May 18, 2017) (2017 WL 2180393).

 
Mooney, Wright & Moore, PLLC
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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California Property Tax Updates

UPDATED March 2018

Tax Exemption for Rainwater Capture Systems

In June, California voters will be asked to approve Proposition 72 which would exclude rainwater capture systems from property taxation. Proposition 72 addresses one of California’s most significant ongoing issues, inadequate water supplies caused by droughts. If approved, Proposition 72 would exclude from the definition of re-assessable “new construction” facilities designed to “capture, retain and store rain water flowing off a building rooftop or other manmade aboveground hard surface for subsequent onsite use.” The property tax exclusion would apply to rainwater capture facilities which are newly-constructed on or after January 1, 2019. In addition, the exemption would only apply to the initial purchaser who purchased a new building from an owner-builder who did not already receive the rainwater capture facility exclusion. The exclusion would be obtained by filing a claim with the local property tax assessor.
 
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Greenberg Traurig, LLP
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Canada Property Tax Updates

Updated July 2017

New Rules in Ontario

The Assessment Review Board (“ARB”), which provides the first and only level of administrative law review of assessment appeals in Ontario, has changed its rules.

The ARB new rules are effective April 1, 2017. There are 122 rules and several Practice Directions.  Most significantly, all appeals will be grouped as either “General” or “Summary”.  General proceedings have a detailed schedule to be adhered to unless it is altered by the parties with the consent of the ARB. All appeals are deemed to be general proceedings unless they are specified as summary proceedings.  The details include specified hard dates for inspections, productions, examinations for discovery, motions, exchange of witness statements and reports.

All of this means that the litigation before the ARB will be increasingly complex and rule-bound. It is not an area for amateurs. 

J. Bradford Nixon
Nixon Fleet & Poole LLP
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Colorado Property Tax Updates

Updated March 2015

Colorado Begins Its 2015 Reassessment

Bi-annually, Colorado Assessors perform a revaluation/reappraisal for purposes of assessing the value of Colorado property using a “base period” method. In tax years 2013 and 2014, nonresidential property values were based on sales, income and cost data from a “base period” commencing on January 1, 2011 and ending on June 30, 2012. A new “base period” with its likely higher values now comes into play. 2015 is a revaluation year in which Colorado County Assessors will reappraise the value of real property. Under Colorado law, 2015 and 2016 nonresidential property values will be based on sales, income and cost data from a base period commencing January 1, 2013 and ending June 30, 2014.

Given the general upward trend in real estate values since the last base period ending June 30, 2012, many property owners may expect to see an increase in their property values and consequently, their property taxes for 2015 and 2016. The assessors are required by law, absent significant changes in the property after the base period, to use the same value for tax years 2015 and 2016. Even if an appraised value does not increase, budget demands will likely incentivize cities, counties and other taxing entities to maximize tax revenues by increasing the mil levies that determine the assessed value and the resulting tax, to the extent permissible by a Colorado Constitutional Amendment that limits tax increases called the "Tabor Amendment".

Beginning May 1, 2015, County Assessors will mail the 2015 Notices of Valuation for real property. The property owner will have a very short period of time to evaluate these notices and protest the value set on the property. Protests of valuation for most Colorado counties must be filed by May 31, 2015. Protests of valuation for Denver County properties must be filed no later than November 15, 2015. Our property tax attorneys know the critical legal and business factors that affect real property values and classifications. We are prepared to meet with property owners to assist in evaluating their property tax situation and, when appropriate, plan their strategies for their 2015 property tax protests.

Larry R. Martinez, Esq.
Berenbaum Weinshienk PC
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Connecticut Property Tax Updates

Updated March 2016

Tax Appeal Settlement Enforced

After engaging in extended settlement discussions, the owner of a shopping center and the City of Waterbury agreed to settle a tax appeal with a verbal understanding which touched all pertinent items. Indeed, a Superior Court noted that “[t]he terms of this agreement could not be clearer. There is no question . . . that the parties clearly understood the basis of an agreement and the impact on each of the parties.”

Well after discussions concluded, the City asserted the lack of authority of its Corporation Counsel to bind the City, especially as to the aspect of the case involving a penalty waiver for nonpayment of taxes. Arguing that Connecticut law and City of Waterbury ordinances did not permit her to waive the penalty, the Corporation Counsel nevertheless “admitted during (oral) argument that other similar penalty assessments may have been settled without specific . . . approval . . . . also.”

Holding that the property owner should not forfeit the benefit of its settlement under these circumstances, its motion to enforce the agreement was granted.

Elliott B. Pollack
Pullman & Comley, LLC
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Delaware Property Tax Updates

UPDATED September 2017

Delaware Court Unlocks Opportunities to Reduce Property Tax Burden

Managing expenses is one of the best ways to ensure the long-term profitability of investment properties.  Owners of real property know that achieving reductions in property tax assessments can be challenging under the best of circumstances, and distinctions between state tax systems can make minimizing the real estate tax burden across a commercial or industrial portfolio a daunting task.  But a recent decision by the Delaware Supreme Court provides taxpayers with a new, yet surprisingly familiar, opportunity to reduce the burden of property taxes on their properties in The First State.

Delaware’s tax assessment system shows its age
Under Delaware Law, property must be valued at its “true value in money,” a term interpreted to mean the property’s “present actual market value.”  However, in order to implement the Delaware Constitution’s mandate of tax uniformity, Delaware applies a base year method of assessing property, meaning that all property in a jurisdiction is assessed in terms of its value as of a certain date, then that value remains on the property indefinitely until the jurisdiction performs a general reassessment.  For Delaware’s northernmost county, New Castle County, the last reassessment occurred in 1983, so all property in the County is valued as of July 1, 1983.

A major challenge to contesting property tax assessments in Delaware is that a taxpayer must determine the property’s market value in 1983.  Determining what a property is worth today is not always easy, but proving a property’s value three decades ago has proven increasingly difficult.  Furthermore, because the County makes no regular adjustments to a property’s assessed value, the County asserts that a property should be valued as it existed in 1983 or, if it was built after 1983, as if it is new and undepreciated.

Delaware’s courts have explained that taxpayers have two options in assessment appeals: they can use data from the base year (by, for example, finding sales of comparable properties in or around 1983, or using prevailing market rents and capitalization rates from 1983) or they can calculate the current market value of the property and “trend back” that amount to 1983.  The County Board of Assessment Review has expressed a near-absolute preference for 1983 data, and rarely finds a taxpayer’s trending formula acceptable.

The inequities of this system are blatant.  Under the county’s interpretation of the base year system, a 34-year-old building located next door to a similar new building should be assessed and taxed at the same level, despite that buyers, sellers, and tenants might value the buildings quite differently.  If the owner of the 30-year old building wanted to contest its assessment, the owner would have to identify data for new buildings in 1983.  Of course, as time marches on and years turn to decades, relevant data from the base year becomes increasingly difficult to find.

Taxpayers highlight the system’s obsolescence
Taxpayers have raised many challenges to Delaware’s assessment system, but most successful challenges are fact-specific, and no recent court has gone so far as to order Delaware’s counties to complete a reassessment.  But after several attempts, the taxpayers in Commerce Associates LP v. New Castle County Office of Assessment underscored the largest flaw in the system.

One Commerce Center is an office condominium building in Wilmington, Delaware.  Each office condominium was originally assessed by the County upon construction in 1983.  After keeping the same tax assessment for decades, the owners of several of the condominiums challenged their assessments in 2015.

Before the County Board of Assessment Review, the owners presented five different analyses: two relied on comparable sales transactions (one using 1983 sales of buildings that were about 32 years old, and one using modern asking prices trended back to 1983 using the Consumer Price Index); two relied on income (one using 1983 data, and one using 2015 data trended back to 1983 using CPI); and a cost approach using the original construction costs and reflecting depreciation.  These approaches showed that the properties were overassessed by more than 40%.

The County presented evidence of the condominiums’ sale prices in 1985, when each unit was relatively new.  The County also presented an income approach using 1983 data and a cost approach reflecting no depreciation.  The County’s approaches all supported the original assessed values, and the Board ultimately denied the taxpayers’ appeals.

Delaware’s Court approves a decrease in value
After having their appeals denied by the Superior Court, the taxpayers brought their challenge to the Delaware Supreme Court.  In a tersely-worded decision, the Supreme Court reiterated that all relevant factors bearing on the value of a property in its current condition must be considered.  While the County argued that no depreciation was needed because the properties were brand new in 1983, the Court noted that the properties were, in reality, more than 34 years old.  Failing to account for their age and the resulting depreciation (or appreciation) resulted in a flawed value.

Although the Court’s decision has yet to be implemented by the County, its effects will likely be widely felt.  Most properties in New Castle County built after 1983 are assessed without any depreciation.  Because each tax year brings with it a new opportunity to challenge an assessment, property owners can bring a new appeal to the Board every year reflecting the property’s current depreciation.  Ultimately, this could result in the downfall of the decades-old base year assessment, as the County finds it necessary to update assessments for a larger number of properties.

A number of questions remain unanswered by the Court’s ruling.  How should properties be valued in areas that were rural in 1983 but are now highly developed?  How can appreciation and depreciation be quantified and reconciled?  Future cases will need to resolve these questions, but for now, owners of Delaware property should evaluate their portfolios and determine whether opportunities exist to improve profitability by reducing property taxes.

Benjamin A. Blair
Faegre Baker Daniels LLP
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Florida Property Tax Updates

UPDATED March 2018

Assessment of "Vertical Subdivisions"

A new law in Florida addresses a longstanding issue regarding taxation of mixed use high rise properties often referred to as vertical subdivisions.  Many recent real estate developments are created with “lots” in the sky with distinct ownership of each component. Even if these vertical lots are owned by separate owners, county property appraisers in Florida were not required to issue separate tax folio numbers. This created issues related to allocation of the taxes among different owners and the lien of taxes that would be imposed if the owner of one component failed to pay its share of the total tax bill.  Beginning with the 2018 tax roll, the new law requires property appraisers to issue separate tax folios for each “parcel” of a multi-parcel building which is identified in a recorded instrument.  It also specifies that the land underlying the multiple parcel building may not be separately assessed, but rather must be allocated to each parcel in proportion to the just value of all the parcels.  This is similar to the way  condominium units are currently assessed in Florida.  The statute also recognizes that some or all of the parcels in a multiple parcel building can be further subdivided into condominium units.  This new law will resolve allocation and lien issues but will present interesting valuation challenges for vertical lot owners.

Juie M. Schwartz, Esq.
Rennert Vogel Mandler & Rodriguez P.A.
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Georgia Property Tax Updates

UPDATED March 2018

County's Failure To Schedule Settlement Conference Leads to a Loss

In Hall County Bd. of Tax Assessors v. Westrec Properties, Inc., 2018 Ga. LEXIS 42 (Case No. S17A1421, decided on January 29, 2018), the Georgia Supreme Court affirmed the trial court’s grant of the taxpayers’ motion for summary judgment based on the county Board of Tax Assessors’ failure to send notice of a settlement conference within 45 days of its receipt of the taxpayers’ notices of appeal and before certification of the appeals, as required by the amendment to O.C.G.A. § 48-5-311 (g)(2), which went into effect on January 1, 2016.  The Court held further that although the appeals were initially filed in the administrative process in 2015, the appeals were not considered filed until the date the taxpayers’ notices of appeal to Superior Court were filed with the Board of Tax Assessors, which was after the effective date of the new statutory amendment. The Court stated that the law means what it says: if the Board of Tax Assessors elects not to hold a settlement conference, the appeal terminates in the taxpayer’s favor, and if the taxpayer chooses not to participate in the conference, he loses the opportunity to seek fees and costs in Superior Court.


Lisa F. Stuckey
Ragsdale, Beals, Seigler, Patterson & Gray, LLP
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Idaho Property Tax Updates

Updated March 2018

If at First You Don’t Succeed . . .

In December, we reported on a brand new Idaho Supreme Court decision holding that the J.R. Simplot Foundation’s new JUMP facility in Downtown Boise was not entitled to a charitable exemption from property taxation while the property was still under construction.  This left the parties with the knotty problem of how to determine the market value of a partially constructed special purpose – very special purpose -- facility.  That issue was held in abeyance at the trial court level while the parties litigated the availability of the exemption. Now that the Supreme Court has ruled on the exemption question, the valuation issue is reactivated with a trial date in January 2019.  Meanwhile, the Idaho Legislature has stepped in to make sure this type of situation does not recur.  Projects under construction for a tax-exempt purpose can apply for a provisional exemption during construction.  This statutory solution has a retroactive effective date of January 1, 2016.  Surprisingly, the bill’s fiscal statement says there will be no effect on either state or local taxes.

Norm Bruns and Michelle DeLappe
Garvey Schubert Barer
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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American Property Tax Counsel

Recent Published Property Tax Articles

Cash in on Tax Savings for Green-Buildings

Energy-efficient buildings may not yet command premium rents and prices in smaller markets, but green features could mean property tax savings.

By Benjamin Blair, Esq.

A growing number of commercial properties incorporate energy-efficient attributes that exceed basic code requirements. While conserving resources, these sustainable building strategies can also enhance the owner's bottom...

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Use obsolescence to lower hospital property taxes

Becker's Hospital Review originally published this article in the May 18, 2018 issue of Becker's CFO Report.

Property taxes based on excessive valuations are smothering traditional hospital owners.

All too often, tax assessors ignore functional and economic obsolescence that increasingly afflict hospitals, instead treating these assets as financially productive institutions that hold...

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How the New Tax Law Affects Property Taxes

Due diligence is required to determine whether possible tax increases can be abated

By Jason M. Penighetti, Esq.

President Trump's Tax Cuts and Jobs Act is the first sweeping reform of the tax code in more than 30 years. Signed into law on Dec. 22, the plan drops top individual rates to...

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