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Property Tax Resources

Jan
16

Reducing Hotel Property Taxes By Properly Valuing Intangible Assets

Most, but not all, taxing authorities acknowledge that hotels include intangible and tangible assets. Reducing property tax costs by removing intangible value has long been controversial due to the challenging task of valuing intangible assets. Intangibles include items such as the assembled workforce, service contracts, reservations systems, web presence and hotel management and franchise agreements.

Most, but not all, taxing authorities acknowledge that hotels include intangible and tangible assets. Reducing property tax costs by removing intangible value has long been controversial due to the challenging task of valuing intangible assets. Intangibles include items such as the assembled workforce, service contracts, reservations systems, web presence and hotel management and franchise agreements.

Fortunately for hotel owners, a recent decision by the California Court of Appeals makes clear that measuring a hotel’s intangible value solely by deducting franchise fees and management fees understates a hotel’s intangible value. Assessors must exclude all intangible value to tax the hotel’s real property properly. Proper exclusion of intangible value will necessarily result in lower taxes.

The debate
It is axiomatic that investors buy operating hotels based on the income generated by the hotel’s business. The income is generated by the combination of the property’s real estate, tangible personal property, and intangible personal property. All of these components are essential and the absence of any of these elements severely compromises a hotel’s ability to generate revenue.

Ad valorem taxing authorities are not investors or lenders. They are charged with valuing only the real estate component of a hotel for tax purposes. Isolating a hotel’s taxable value requires that the assessor remove from the hotel’s overall value both the value of tangible personal property and the value of the intangible personal property used in conjunction with the operating business.

Valuing the hotel’s tangible personal property, such as beds, furniture and the like, is relatively easy. Valuing intangible assets poses a far greater challenge. How should the assessor separate the value of intangible assets from the hotel’s overall value? The answer to that question has been the subject of heated debate.

Evolving methodology
The Appraisal Institute’s current curriculum recognizes the presence of intangible value in hotels but avoids the issue of how to calculate this value. This omission implicitly acknowledges that the value of an operating hotel lies at the intersection of real property appraisal and business valuation, and both skill sets are required to value a hotel property appropriately.

Stephen Rushmore developed the initial approach to the problem over 30 years ago. To account for a hotel property’s intangible value, the Rushmore Approach simply subtracts management fees and franchise fees from the hotel’s revenue and capitalizes the remaining revenue to determine real estate value.

The debate about valuing intangible property in a hotel has been long, loud and heated. While revolutionary at the time, the Rushmore Approach has been criticized for years. Rushmore’s defenders have responded to the criticism on several fronts.

Critics argue the Rushmore Approach offers the attraction of simplicity at the expense of understating the contribution made by intangible personal property to the hotel’s revenue. Critics further argue that the Rushmore Approach’s assumption that the deduction of management and franchise fees effectively accounts for a hotel’s entire intangible value is contrary to the experience of market participants in owning and operating a hotel. Rushmore’s detractors often advocate an alternative method known as the business enterprise approach, which casts a wider net to account for intangibles.

Rushmore’s supporters note the absence of hard data to quantify sales of a hotel’s individual components. The absence of this data, however, is unsurprising, considering investors buy and sell hotels based on income generated rather than on the value of individual components.

Rushmore’s advocates also suggest that alternative approaches overstate intangible value, thereby reducing the mortgage-asset-secured value lenders rely upon for hotel financing.

Courts weigh in
The Rushmore Approach certainly accounts for some intangible value, but, does it reveal the full intangible value associated with a hotel such as licenses to use software and websites?

Until recently, Glen Pointe Associates vs. Township of Teaneck, a 1989 New Jersey opinion, was the seminal hotel property tax decision that adopted the Rushmore Approach to extract the real estate value of an operating hotel. A May 2014 California Court of Appeals opinion, however, suggests the tide may be turning against the Rushmore Approach and in favor of the business enterprise approach.

In SHC Half Moon Bay vs. County of San Mateo, the California Court of Appeals held that “the deduction of the management and franchise fee from the hotel’s projected revenue stream pursuant to the income approach did not - as required by California Law - identify and exclude intangible assets” such as an assembled workforce and other intangibles.

In overturning the taxing authority’s methodology as a matter of law, the appellate court held that the taxing authority had failed to explain how the deduction of the management and franchise fee, i.e. the Rushmore Approach, captures the value of all of the hotel’s intangible property. Considering that consumers increasingly make hotel reservations online instead of using a flag’s reservation system, it is increasingly difficult to argue that the Rushmore Approach sufficiently captures the value of the hotel’s website or its relationship to on-line providers outside of the flags.

The arrival of Airbnb in the market also provides food for thought. Airbnb is a controversial web platform where an apartment owner advertises an apartment online for overnight paying guests. The platform boasts over 800,000 listings in 33,000 cities in 192 countries. Many local governments argue Airbnb allows apartment owners to avoid hospitality taxes or other hotel regulations.

Airbnb’s success demonstrates the difficulty of isolating a hotel’s real estate value by only excluding management and franchise fees. Airbnb doesn’t charge management or franchise fees, yet the service allows owners to increase the income potential of their apartments far beyond market rent.

The debate between advocates and critics of the Rushmore Approach rages on. The challenge for valuing hotel real estate remains. The beauty of the Rushmore Approach is its simplicity, but in the days of the Internet and Airbnb, simplicity may not equate to accuracy. In the wake of the decision from California, the tide may be running out on the Rushmore Approach.

ellison mMorris Ellison is a partner in the Charleston, S.C., office of the law firm Womble Carlyle Sandridge & Rice LLP. The firm is the South Carolina member of American Property Tax Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys. Morris Ellison can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Jan
12

Michigan Provides Property Tax Lessons for Big Box Retail

"Probably the most important concept affirmed in these Michigan decisions is that assessors must value big box properties based on their value-in-exchange and not their value-in-use."

Owners of big box retail buildings can take lessons from Michigan on the proper way to value these large, free-standing stores for property tax purposes. The state’s well-developed tax law offers a clear model that is applicable in any state that bases its property tax valuation assessments on the fee simple, value-in-exchange standard.

Many states, including Michigan, base real estate taxation on the market value of a property’s fee simple interest using value-in-exchange principles. In other words, a property’s taxable value is its market value, and market value is commonly considered the property’s probable selling price in a cash-equivalent, arms-length transaction involving willing, knowledgeable parties, neither of whom is under duress.

In recent years, the Michigan Tax Tribunal has decided with remarkable consistency a dozen cases involving big box stores. In 2014, the Michigan Court of Appeals affirmed two of these Tax Tribunal decisions, recognizing that the Tribunal’s key rulings in this area rested on established law.

Probably the most important concept affirmed in these Michigan decisions is that assessors must value big box properties based on their value-in-exchange and not their value-in-use. Assessors and appraisers hired by local Michigan governments repeatedly — and improperly — reached value conclusions based on value-in-use rather than value-in-exchange principles.

The violation of this fundamental point was not obvious from a cursory review of the valuation evidence. For example, the assessor’s evidence included both big box property sales with nigh per-square-foot prices and big box properties with high rental rates. Consequently, for the Michigan Tribunal to decide these cases correctly, taxpayers needed to present evidence, including from expert witnesses, which convincingly established the following:

  1. Each big box retailer either builds or remodels its stores to be consistent with the retailer’s marketing, branding and merchandising operations (built-to-suit);
  2. When a big box property sells, the buyer will spend substantial dollars reimaging the property so that it conforms to the new owner’s appearance, layout and other specifications;
  3. Given that big box properties can be costly to build because of their built-to-suit nature, and that the subsequent purchasers will make substantial modifications at significant cost, these properties sell for far less than their construction cost; and
  4. Actual sales confirmed that these properties sell for far less than construction cost.

With evidence establishing each of these points, the Michigan Tribunal has repeatedly recognized that taxable value for a big box property must reflect its value-in-exchange.

For example, the Tribunal could grasp that a sale would not reflect market value if the property had a rental rate designed to compensate the developer for construction to the retailer’s specifications, rather than a rent negotiated between a landlord and tenant for an existing building.

Similarly, with such evidence the Michigan Tribunal could discern that a sale would not reflect market value if the original owner/user of the property sold and leased back the space. A sale-leaseback is typically a financing transaction between two parties with multiple relationships (landlord/buyer and seller/tenant) that are different from an arms-length transaction. That means the rent in a sale-leaseback does not reflect the property’s market rent, which would be used in an income approach to determine value. Similarly, the sale price in such a transaction is not evidence of market value.

Likewise, the Michigan Tribunal recognized that if the assessor used leases with above-market rents to value these properties, it would impermissibly be valuing something other than the property’s fee-simple interest. This is important because it applies anytime a property with above-market rent is used as either a comparable sale or a rent comparable.

Finally, the Michigan Tribunal rejected the claim that each property’s highest and best use as improved was the continued use by the specific retailer that occupied the property. Generally, highest and best use is that which is legally permissible, financially feasible, maximally productive, and physically possible.

To define that use as the continued use by the retailer occupying the property would improperly make the value depend on the identity of the property’s owner. Additionally, it would lead to a value conclusion that reflected the value of the property to that owner, or its value in-use. Thus, the Michigan Tribunal concluded that the highest and best use was simply retail use.

Michigan’s many recent big box property tax decisions spotlight issues applicable to many types of properties, wherever the law requires assessors to value properties based on the market value of a property’s fee simple interest. Perhaps the most important takeaway is that in such cases, taxpayers need to provide evidence from appraisers and other experts to carefully document a property’s market value, and where that value is significantly less than construction cost, explain why this is true.

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Stewart Mandell is a Partner and Tax Appeals Practice Group Leader, in the law firm of Honigman Miller Schwartz and Cohn LLP, the Michigan member of American Property Tax Counsel (APTC). He can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

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Jan
09

Finding Relief - Property Tax Appeals for Industrial Assets Yield Rewards

While it is common knowledge that tax relief is available for newly constructed industrial facilities that bring jobs and infrastructure to a region, business owners often overlook the opportunity to reduce property taxes on their existing facilities. That’s a pity, because successful property tax contests are a source of found money that goes straight to the company’s bottom line.

Those savings can be significant. In Pennsylvania, a 2.5 million-square-foot manufacturing plant that had not challenged its assessments in more than a decade was overvalued by $30 million. An appeal ultimately yielded $500,000 in annual tax relief.

Public perception vs. reality. Tax appeals for industrial properties present unique challenges. In rural areas, the property owner is often the region’s largest employer and the largest taxpayer in the jurisdiction, so that reducing the assessment also reduces funds available to local schools. Development costs are both widely publicized and somewhat misleading, because investment in equipment, site preparation, training arid other items frequently exceeds the real estate’s fair market value. News stories about that $100 million plant can come back to haunt the owner who tries to argue for a more realistic assessment.

Moreover, for properties developed with the help of government incentives or tax abatements, an owner seeking a tax reduction may run into community resentment when local media report on the contest.

Expect a fight. Taxing jurisdictions will fight hard against a tax contest. Authorities typically delay the litigation, often from a sense of outrage rather than anything else. When an appeal seeking hundreds of thousands of dollars of tax relief stretches into multiple years, winning a favorable ruling becomes progressively more difficult for the property owner. At trial, the case is typically decided by a local judge, who is mindful that a reduction would have a negative effect on local districts. The property owner must strike a delicate balance, continuously pushing the litigation forward while staying sensitive to its larger impact.

“Face-to-face meetings, both internal and external, are essential when managing property taxes for a large industrial property owner”, said Christine Rohde, manager of property tax and incentives at Alcoa Inc., where she oversees tax protests. When possible, I make every effort to inspect our sites and meet with plant management to explain the process and answer questions. Meeting personally with out-of-state assessors helps build relationships and allows both parties to work through the valuation issues to arrive at assessments that are fair to all concerned.

The property owner’s tax counsel must also push the litigation. Courts seldom specify a timetable for bringing the case to trial and jurisdictions will try to delay the process by asking for continuances. Tax counsel must produce an appraisal promptly, call the jurisdiction’s counsel regularly, invite representatives of the jurisdictions to inspect the facility and ask the judge to schedule conferences or pre-trial meetings. As Rohde noted, tax counsel should meet face to face with the jurisdiction’s representatives whenever possible and be prepared to travel to the property repeatedly.

Valuation challenges. Differences among industrial properties - heavy manufacturing, light manufacturing, office/flex, warehouse and distribution centers - greatly affect valuation, so hire professionals with demonstrated expertise in appraising the specific category of the industrial property in question.

Owner-occupied properties, which have no rental income to capitalize, present another challenging situation. Or the property may have a mix of uses, as with a corporate headquarters campus that has offices, research and development space and training facilities.

Finding comparable properties for the appraisal can be an issue as well. A special-purpose property, such as an ethanol plant, cannot be easily used by another user. Even generic manufacturing space is subject to external obsolescence or incurable factors that affect valuation and are beyond the physical boundaries of the property. External obsolescence might reflect a scarcity of a natural resource used in the manufacturing process, or extended travel time to the closet interstate highways, either of which can severely impair value.

If the property is the only one of its kind in the state, the appraiser may seek comparable sales out of state. The assets being used as the basis of comparison are often attracted by economic incentives to places where they would not otherwise go perhaps far from suppliers or interstate highways. These locational issues detract from fair market value and the associated comps can reduce the assessment and property taxes for the contested property.

The checklist. Evaluate industrial property for potential tax appeals annually, and know the jurisdiction’s idiosyncrasies. Can the property owner meet informally with the assessor? Does the taxing authority have a reputation for being litigious?

Keep the property owner’s public relations department involved, and be mindful of how an appeal is presented and perceived. Get an appraisal from the most experienced professional in the property type and one who presents well on the stand. And finally, push the appeal through to conclusion.

sdipaolo150Sharon DiPaolo is a partner in the law firm of Siegel Jennings Co., L.P.A., the Ohio and Western Pennsylvania member of American Property Tax Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys. She can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

 

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Jan
01

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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Jan
01

Arizona Property Tax Updates

UPDATED march 2020

COVID-19 Potential Relief for Tax Payments

As of April 10, 2020

The second half of property taxes for 2019 are due by May 1st. If not, individuals will be subject to interest penalties and their property taxes will be considered delinquent. Per Arizona State Law, the Counties do not have authority to extend the May 1st deadline. Extensions and changes in due dates can only be enacted by the legislature. County Treasurers have been asking for property tax relief by extending the deadline for property taxes 30 days (https://www.graham.az.gov/DocumentCenter/View/3956/Treasurer-Joint-Press-Release-Move-Deliquency-Date-PDF). If granted, this would allow individuals and businesses to pay the second half of their 2019 property taxes by June 1st, waiving all penalties and interest for payments made after May 1st.

If you have any questions about the status of this legislative effort or options for appealing your property taxes, please contact us at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..

If you or your business want to support the Treasurers’ attempt to extend the May 1st deadline, you must reach out to legislators and request property tax relief amid the COVID-19 pandemic. Below is a link to find your state legislators, and links to the rosters for the Arizona State Senate and House of Representatives. Please note you should call or email the senator and representative over your legislative district.

Find My Legislator:
https://www.azleg.gov/findmylegislator/

District Locator: simply enter your address, it will identify your Congressional and Legislative District. Then click on next link to find the senator (use LEGISLATIVE district)
https://azredistricting.org/districtlocator/

List of Arizona Senators and their Legislative Districts:
https://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster/?body=S

List of Arizona Representatives and their Legislative Districts:
https://www.azleg.gov/MemberRoster/?body=H

Property owners may also want to contact the Arizona Department of Revenue to communicate the need for relief due to the COVID-19 pandemic: (602) 716-6843

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

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Jan
01

California Property Tax Updates

UPDATED september 2021

State Board Mulls Expanding Emergency Powers, Strengthening Virtual Hearings

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, the California State Board of Equalization (SBE) is considering whether to expand its emergency powers to extend various compliance and filing deadlines during a public calamity. Current law only gives the SBE power to grant taxing authorities limited extensions of time to certify tax rolls, and no authority to extend deadlines for taxpayers. However, the SBE is considering whether it should have broader powers that would allow it to extend filing and other compliance deadlines for taxpayers. Giving the SBE such powers would eliminate the need to seek deadline extensions from California’s Governor under the Governor’s emergency declaration powers. Expanding the SBE’s emergency powers would require amendments to statutes and the California Constitution. The SBE has also been asked to strengthen requirements relating to county virtual equalization hearings, including mandating virtual hearings for all taxpayers until in-person hearings are resumed. SBE hearings on both of these topics are scheduled for later this year.


This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Greenberg Traurig, LLP
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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Jan
01

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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Jan
01

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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Jan
01

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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Jan
01

Florida Property Tax Updates

UPDATED september 2021

Florida Supreme Court Limits Property Appraisers’ Ability to Back Assess

Florida law allows county property appraisers to back assess property for a maximum of three years when property is deemed to have “escaped taxation”.  Over time and interpretation by the courts, this was generally applied such that an appraiser could not use back assessments to increase a prior year’s taxes to correct a mistake of appraisal judgment. However, courts had allowed corrections of clerical errors or similar mistakes that led to an undervaluation of property.   In its recent ruling, however, the Supreme Court held that the clerical error/judgment distinction is not in the statutes and that appraisers can not back assess for either type of mistake.  They can only back assess when property truly “escapes taxation”, meaning that it was not taxed at all.  The dissenting justices raised concerns of fairness and a windfall to a taxpayer who benefits from a clerical error. The majority opinion, however relied on the unambiguous language of the statutes and also favors an important principle that taxpayers need finality and certainty in taxation.

Julie Schwartz
Rennert Vogel Mandler & Rodriguez, PA
American Property Tax Counsel (APTC)

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