Property Tax Appeals (the Appraiser & Attorney team)
First and foremost, Tax Assessors are NOT appraisers and are not licensed or certified as appraisers. They are simply tax assessors who are often untrained employees hired by the taxing authority which benefits from over assessed properties, and in many cases work outside of any professional standards or under any professional experienced supervision, all of which are in the narrow field defined as “Mass Appraisal” and often tax assessors do not adhere to any recognized standards of developing or reporting such highly detailed work.
It is not unusual that property owners are shocked when they first receive their NEW Tax Revaluation Assessment because their properties NEW Tax Assessment often rises dramatically from the previous tax assessment. Taxpayers often ask themselves, “What can I do if I think my new property tax assessment is over-valued”?
The answer is that by combining the expertise of a licensed or certified appraiser with an attorney experienced in property tax appeals can be the most beneficial approach to a successful resolution for such property owners who are interested in appealing their assessed values. Each professional can contribute particular strengths to the process, leading to a more effective property tax appeal.
Property owner’s have the right to appeal their property assessment to the ad valorem assessment body typically known as the County Tax Equalization and Review Board. Using the combined professionalism and expertise of a Licensed or Certified Appraiser and an experienced well qualified attorney experienced in property tax appeals has resulted in substantial real estate tax assessment reductions for many mutual real estate clients.
Typically, the attorney is responsible for filing the appropriate application and negotiating a satisfactory real estate tax assessment reduction with the county tax assessor. An appraiser is responsible for preparing an appropriate unbiased third party appraisal (which MUST have an “Effective Date” of no later than January 1 of the year the revaluation becomes effective) so that it may be used by the attorney to negotiate a satisfactory settlement with the tax assessor. By NC General Statute, real estate values must reflect the market value of the property as of January 1 of the revaluation year. Any inflation, deflation or other economic changes occurring after that date do not affect the county’s assessed value on the property and cannot be lawfully considered when reviewing the next county-wide revaluation, which must be performed at least once every eight years per NC General Statutes.
An attorney should be responsible for compliance with all state laws and local rules and regulations by which the real estate property owner might be able to achieve the most favorable real estate tax assessment reduction. Also, an unsatisfactory result at a tax appeals board hearing can be further appealed to a higher tribunal of the State’s Board of Equalization and Review and further appealed in the States’ court system.
Attorneys experienced in property tax appeals are well trained as an advocate for the property owner, and should be the one negotiating with the county tax assessor for reducing the property tax assessment. A knowledgeable and experienced attorney is generally best suited to oversee the entire real estate tax appeal & reduction process.
An appraiser cannot advocate for a specific outcome (which is due to the regulations under which appraisal licensing is regulated and the related professional standards of practice entitled USPAP) and therefore professional appraisers should associate themselves with a knowledgeable and experienced tax appeal attorney. It is typically best that a letter of engagement be used between the appraiser and the attorney to establish the appraiser/client relationship with the attorney. By making the attorney the client of the appraiser, this typically protects the appraisal report as confidential under certain legal doctrines. The attorney should state that the appraisal was made by a highly experienced and credentialed appraiser whose fee was in no way contingent upon the outcome of the hearing. In order to reduce your property tax assessment you must prove that the assessed value of your property is less than the valuation assigned by the county tax assessing authority. In NC, the assessment is deemed to be correct, and therefore the burden of proof, falls on the petitioner-property owner to prove otherwise.
You need to act quickly. So, as soon as you discover the new tax assessment might be incorrect, because tax appeals are only heard for a limited time each year, and if you miss the deadline to be heard you will most likely have to wait until the next year before you will be allowed to appeal your tax assessment when the appeals process opens up again.
Therefore, the first step to a successful tax appeal is to determine if you are eligible for an informal review with the County Tax Assessors Office, which such appeals must be typically filed by the first Monday of April with the County Board of Equalization and Review. Typically, a meeting with the County Tax Assessors Office should include credible documentation, evidence and facts supporting the need to modify the assessed value of the property. NOTE, that credible supporting documentation typically includes an appraisal of the property with an effective date of January 1 of the revaluation year, and can include other factual documents that support changes to the property which show different facts about the property than the facts the County Tax Assessors have documented on the property, and thus might show cause to modify the assessed value on the property.
If you are not satisfied with the results of the informal review, then the next step in the appeals process is to formally appeal to the County Board of Equalization and Review. Typically, this begins with a completed formal application for appeal which must be received by the County Assessor’s Office on or before their cut-off date, and must include the credible documentation, evidence and other facts supporting the need to modify the assessed value on the property. The Assessors staff will typically review the documentation and arrange for a formal appeal with the County Board of Equalization and Review (this is a formal “Hearing” and you should strongly consider being represented by an attorney experienced with the tax appeal process). You will be notified of the date, time and place in sufficient time to prepare your documentation and then appear before the County Board of Equalization and review to have your case heard.
If you still disagree with the assessed value of the property you may further appeal to the NC Property Tax Commission in Raleigh. A formal application for a hearing before the NC Property Tax Commission must be filed within 30 days after the County Board of Equalization and Review has mailed you the notice of their decision.
Further appeals from the NC Property Tax Commission’s decision are through the State’s Court System and are based on the record of the “Hearing” with the NC Property Tax Commission.
REMEMBER, the burden of proof that real estate has been over assessed is still the taxpayer’s responsibility.