"Penalties for failure to file a personal property return on time can range from 5 percent to 50 percent of the taxes attributable to the personal property. This penalty can be waived only upon a proper showing of good and sufficient cause - which does not include inadvertence, mistake, reliance upon advice from a tax professional or lack of knowledge of the filing requirement - or if the year for which the return was filed was both the first year that a return was required to be filed and the first year for which the taxpayer filed a return."

By David Canary, Esq., as published by The Daily Journal of Commerce, January 9th, 2007

Jan. 2 is the date when all property subject to taxation is identified and required to be listed in real and personal property tax returns. All taxable real and personal property is valued for assessment purposes as of Jan. 1. And ownership and responsibility for payment of taxes are determined as of Jan. 1.

Now that the bowl games are over and the Christmas lights have been taken down, property owners are well advised to take stock of the status and use of their real and personal property as of Jan. 1 in preparation for filing their real and personal property tax returns by the March 1 deadline.

Non-exempt personal property subject to assessment, taxation

Every year, the Oregon Tax Court hands down numerous opinions enforcing penalties on up to 50 percent of the taxes upon businesses and individuals that failed to file personal property tax returns. In some cases, the taxes and penalties assessed go back five years, and the tax court has no jurisdiction to waive penalties because of a taxpayer's lack of knowledge of the filing requirement.

So let's be clear. All personal property not exempt from property taxation shall be valued and assessed at its real market value as of jan. 1. Personal property held for personal use is exempt. Licensed motor vehicles are exempt. Inventory held for sale in the ordinary course of business is exempt. And certain farm machinery and equipment is exempt. Assessment of personal property worth less than $12,500 may be canceled upon filing a verified statement with the county assessor.

Every person and every managing agent or officer of any firm, corporation or association owning, or having in its possession, non-exempt personal property on Jan. 1 must file a personal property tax return with the county assessor by March 1 of each year, but the assessor, upon written request filed before the deadline, shall allow an extension to April 15.

As between a mortgagor and mortgagee, or a lessor and lessee, the actual owner and the person in possession may agree between themselves as to who files the return and pays the tax. However, both parties will be jointly and severally liable for the failure of either party to timely file a personal property return, including penalties.

The personal property return is required to contain: a full listing of the personal property owned or in the taxpayer's possession as of Jan. 1; a statement of its real market value; a separate listing of those items claimed to be exempt as imports or exports; a listing of the additions and retirements made since the prior Jan. 1, indicating the book cost and the date of acquisition or retirement; and the name, assumed business name and address of each general partner (or, if it is a corporation, the name and address of the registered agent). The return shall be annexed an affidavit or affirmation of the person making the return that the statements contained in the return are true. Return forms may be obtained from the office of the county assessor.

Penalties for failure to file a personal property return on time can range from 5 percent to 50 percent of the taxes attributable to the personal property. This penalty can be waived only upon a proper showing of good and sufficient cause - which does not include inadvertence, mistake, reliance upon advice from a tax professional or lack of knowledge of the filing requirement - or if the year for which the return was filed was both the first year that a return was required to be filed and the first year for which the taxpayer filed a return. The imposition of the penalty for late or non-filing of a personal property tax return may be appealed to the county board of property tax appeals.

IPR presents tricky problems

Owners of principal and secondary industrial property must file an industrial property return (IPR). An IPR is a combined return of both real and personal property. The IPR and instructions specifying the information to be included in the return are available on the Oregon Department of Revenue's Web site (search for "industrial property return form").

Essentially, the IPR requires the same sort of information as the personal property return: listing of assets, statement of value, book cost and date of acquisition or retirements. However, unlike a personal property return, an IPR requires a great deal more detail. For example, in addition to reporting the cost of acquiring a piece of machinery, the industrial taxpayer must report the cost of transportation, engineering, installation and special foundation, piping and wiring. Then there is the tricky problem of correctly reporting the cost and value of rebuilds, remodels, upgrades and capital maintenance to industrial plants. And, of course, as with personal property, failure to file the IPR by the March 1 deadline subjects an industrial taxpayer to late a filing fee and penalty.

Owners, lessors and lessees of personal or industrial property are well advised to begin preparing now for the march 1 filing deadline that is fast approaching.

Canary90David Canary has specialized in state and local tax litigation for the past 18 years. He has worked for the past 13 years as an owner in the Portland office of Garvey Schubert Barer and prior to that was an assistant attorney general representing the Oregon Department of Revenue. He has the distinction of trying several of the largest tax cases in Oregon's history. He is the Oregon member of American Property Tax Counsel and an active member of the Association of Oregon Industries' Fiscal Policy Council. He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..