The economy may be down, but the same can’t be said for property tax appeals in Jackson County.
“The tax assessor’s office is in the process of dealing with a record number of appeals,” Jefferson City Manager John Ward said.
The county handles tax assessments and collections for county residents and also for the city of Jefferson. According to county staff, overall tax appeals have increased significantly from last year.
“In 2008, there were 956 tax appeals,” said Cathy Johnson, Jackson County chief appraiser with the tax assessor’s office. “In 2009, there were 1,298 appeals.”
The value for properties currently being disputed total more than $160 million, Johnson said.
Residents have several grounds for appeal: “value, taxability or equalization.” Appeals can not be filed simply because a resident doesn’t want to pay a certain amount in taxes.
“Most (residents have been) appealing value,” said Johnson.
To determine how much homeowners should pay in property taxes, the tax assessor’s office multiplies the market value of the property times the assessment ratio, which is set by the state, and subtracts any exemptions. That total is then multiplied by the millage rate, which gives the final tax due for a given property.
A turbulent economy has affected the current market value of many properties, which has lead some homeowners to question whether or not their property value has been properly assessed.
There are three steps to filing an appeal.
First, residents must write a letter of appeal explaining on what grounds they are starting the review process. Next, the appraisal staff review the written request and set up an appointment to review the appraisal.
Finally, if the board of assessors agrees with the property owner that the value of the property should be adjusted, the owner will be notified. If the appraisal board disagrees with the property owner, the appeal is automatically sent to the board of equalization.
In the initial appeal, property owners can request that their case be sent to an arbitrator instead of the equalization board.
Should the assessors or the property owner disagree with the arbitrator or board of equalization’s decision, the appeal can be presented for a final decision before the Jackson County Superior Court.
The length of time it takes to wrap up an appeal varies largely on how far through the process the appeal goes, Johnson said.
There is no charge for going through the board of equalization. However, when an arbitrator is brought in, both the property owner and the local government must split that cost. Taking the appeal to the superior court costs an additional $80 in filing fees.
An appeal must be filed 45 days from the date of the tax assessment. If the written appeal isn’t received within that time frame, the right to appeal is waived for that tax year. If an appeal isn’t filed, Jackson County taxes are due 60 days from the mailing date on the tax bill.