Tax revaluation appeals will continue
by Staff Writer
by Eren Tataragasi
CORNELIUS – Homeowners fighting their property’s tax revaluation are again searching for answers after county commissioners were told last week there was nothing they could do to stop the appeals process.
Cornelius commissioners requested in a letter two weeks ago the appeals process be put on hold in order to help property owners have time to help them understand the process better.
“What’s rubbing people the wrong way is they’re not getting answers,” said Town Manager Anthony Roberts. “The system is broken.”
With no other action to take regarding this year’s revaluation, Roberts said he and Cornelius commissioners will focus on assembling a task force to look into what went wrong with this year’s revaluation and figure out ways to prevent them the next time.
Roberts said one of the main problems property owners have is they can’t understand how some of the property was valued.
Eric Anderson, assistant tax assessor for Mecklenburg County said he knows people have been particularly upset with this year’s revaluations, but that he and his assessors used qualified, comparable sales that occurred prior to Jan. 1, 2011, and for the first time, took into consideration whether homeowners were in an area where the majority of transactions were a result of a distress situation, like foreclosure, bank sales or short sales.
“Because even though you weren’t in that desperate situation, if you were selling then, that’s who your competition would be,” Anderson said.
Roberts said the second problem is that property owners haven’t been able to get a clear step-by-step response from the county on the appeals process.
Anderson said the most important aspect of filing an appeal is timeliness.
“Generally speaking, for 2011, the ability to appeal has come and gone,” he said. “But there are still a few thousand informal reviews to go out, and people will be getting those reviews in the coming week or so. There are about 500 or less that have yet to be dealt with of the initial 41,000.”
The informal review is the property assessment directly from the tax assessor’s office, which property owners can appeal with the county Board of Equalization and Review.
“We’ve had a record level of appeals, there’s no other way to say it,” Anderson said. “I’m sure that it has much to do with the downturn in the economy. ... I’ve been doing this for about 30 decades and this is the most robust level of appeal I’ve ever encountered, and most other counties are seeing it, too. It’s to be expected, and it’s important to work through the process and that’s the best we can do.”
How the appeals process works, and what you’ll need to know
• The Board of Equalization and Review meets Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays from 9 a.m. until the last appeal has been heard, until June 30.
• To appeal, homeowners must file a separate Real Property Appeal Notification form, supplied by the assessor’s office with that informal review, for each parcel placed under appeal.
• The Real Property Appeal Notification must be filed with the assessor’s office, prior to the board’s adjournment, unless the final notice of value was mailed to the taxpayer fewer than 15 days prior to the board’s adjournment.
• Taxpayers have the burden of proving that the property was incorrectly valued, and that the tax value substantially exceeds the true market value of the property as of Jan. 1, 2011. Appraisals of the property, comparable sales of other like property, photographs, statements of income and expenses for income-producing property, and replacement or reproduction costs can all be used in the appeal.
Anderson said if property owners hire an appraiser to help appeal their revaluation, they have to make sure that appraisal is done on sales comparable prior to Jan. 1, 2011, otherwise the appeal will be thrown out.
And because each property is different, Anderson said it’s important homeowners provide the board and tax assessors with details about damages, square footage, or any other detail they feel is pertinent to the value of the property.
“We generally use market models, but there may be instances where your property is different from others in your neighborhood, and we wouldn’t know that unless you brought that to our attention,” Anderson said.
• Taxpayers will be notified of the hearing date and can appear personally or be represented by an attorney.
• Failure of the taxpayer to complete the Real Property Appeal Notification, and to supply any additional documentation, prior to the hearing date may result in a dismissal of the appeal.
• All hearings begin at 9 a.m. Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays, and last until they’re done. It’s first-come-first serve, and residential cases will be heard before commercial. Property owners have about five minutes to make their case, longer if they have pertinent, new information to share, then the county will make its case. Once all appeals have been heard, the board will make its decisions and send a written notice of decision to property owners within three weeks.
• If the taxpayer disagrees with the board’s decision, they have 30 days to file a Form AV-14 Notice of Appeal and Application for Hearing with the North Carolina Property Tax Commission. A copy must also be served on the taxing jurisdiction’s assessor and attorney.
• At the commission level, parties must file an Order on Final Pre-Hearing Conference that provides all facts and proposed evidence, and six copies must be provided to the commission at least 10 days before the hearing.
• Once the commission makes its decision, if either the taxpayer or the county disagrees, they can appeal the decision to the North Carolina Court of Appeals and the North Carolina Supreme Court.