Articles from 2008
Most assessing jurisdictions in Maine are in the process of sending out their fiscal year 2009 property tax bills. A taxpayer can file an Application for Abatement with the assessor. As a practical matter it is at this level that the taxpayer has the best opportunity to show that the property is over assessed. After the assessor denies the Application the taxpayer must appeal to the next level. At that point the chances of obtaining a just assessment diminish precipitously. At an appeal level a taxpayer must prove either of the following:
a. The judgment of the assessor was irrational or so unreasonable in light of the circumstances that the property is substantially overvalued and an injustice results;
b. There was unjust discrimination: or
c. The assessment was fraudulent, dishonest or illegal.
This is onerous standard of proof. Some say that this is an unfair burden to put upon the taxpayer.
The Massachusetts fiscal year 2009 commences on July 1, 2008. The fiscal year 2009 property tax bills have an assessing date of January 1, 2008. Most but not all communities send out there fiscal year 2009 property tax bills on a quarterly basis. The tax bills are generally due on August 1, 2008, November 1, 2008, February 1, 2009 and May 1, 2009. It is the tax bill that is due on February 1, 2009 that Applications for Abatements are filed upon. These applications must be filed with the assessors by February 1, 2009. In most cases the taxes must be paid in a timely manner in order to effectuate a valid appeal. If an Application for Abatement is denied the taxpayer may file a petition with the State Appellate Tax Board. The Appellate Tax Board is a quasi-judicial board. At that level the taxpayer will be afforded a hearing.
In Rhode Island most communities are in the process of sending out their 2008 property tax bills. These tax bills pertain to the assessing or valuation date of December 31, 2007. An Application for Abatement may be filed with the assessor within 90 days of the due date of the first installment of the tax. The assessor has 45 days to make a decision upon the application. If he fails to make a decision within 45 days the Application is deemed to be denied. The taxpayer must then file an Application for Abatement with the local Board of Assessment Review. The Board of Assessment Review must afford the taxpayer a hearing. The taxpayer may appeal a decision of The Board of Assessment Review to the Superior Court in the County where the property is located that appeal must be made within 30 days of the date of the decision.
In New Hampshire Abatement Applications for the tax year 2007 generally have been filed by March 1, 2008. The tax year 2007 has an assessing or valuation date of April 1, 2007. If these applications have neither been denied or granted they will be deemed to have been denied on July 1, 2008. After the application is denied or deemed to be denied the taxpayer then has until September 1, 2008 to file a petition either in the Superior Court or at The State Board of Tax and Land Appeals. There the taxpayer will be afforded a trial. In order to obtain an abatement a taxpayer must usually prove, by a preponderance of the evidence, the market value of the subject property. The taxpayer must also prove the general level of assessment also known as the ratio within the City or Town. The proper assessment is determined by multiplying the market value by the ratio.
The New Hampshire Department of Revenue Administration will soon be establishing its tax year 2007 equalization ratios. These are the equalization as of April 1, 2007. The Department conducts both weighted mean equalization ratio study and a median equalization ratio study. In New Hampshire equalization ratios are essential to proving that tax abatement is warranted. Taxpayers must prove by a preponderance of the evidence that it is paying more than its proportioned share of taxes. The finder of fact must determine what is the appropriate equalization ratio as well as what is the market value of the subject property. The local assessor may claim that their equalization ratio is different from what the Department of Revenue Administration has determined. The median equalization ratio as determined by the Department of Revenue Administration generally preferred over the weighted mean equalization ratio or an equalization ratio claimed by the local assessor.
In Massachusetts now is the time when many Applications for Abatement filed with local Board of Assessors have been denied. If a taxpayer wished to continue with his claim for a tax abatement he must a petition. That petition is almost always to the Commonwealth of Massachusetts Appellate Tax Board. The Appellate Tax Board is the final arbiter of fact. Only appeals regarding questions of law may be taken beyond the Appellate Tax Board. The Appellate Tax Board charges an unusual filing fee in that it is ad valorem. This meaning that the filing fee is dependent on the assessed value. This is Currently 10 cents per thousand of assessed value with a maximum filing fee of $5,000,000. In Massachusetts a separate petition must be filed for each fiscal year. It is not uncommon for two or three years to pass before the matter is resolved. This can be an expensive proposition.
In Rhode Island many taxpayers filed for abatements with the local assessor last summer and fall protesting the assessment that has a valuation date of 12/31/06. Many of those applications have already been denied. Some of these taxpayers continue their appeals by filing with the local Tax Board of Assessment Review. The local Tax Board of Assessment Review must afford the taxpayer a hearing. In some cases that has already been done and a decision either approving or denying the abatement request has been issued. If the taxpayer is denied abatement he must file a petition in the Superior Court within 30 days from the date of the decision. In Superior Court the taxpayer has the right to claim a jury trial. Rhode Island is one of the minority states that provide the taxpayer with the option of jury trial in a tax abatement matter.
Most jurisdictions in Massachusetts will be sending out their fiscal year 2008 property tax bills at the end of December. Most jurisdictions will have either revalued or “trended” their values. In either case the tax bill should be reviewed to see if the assessment reflects the fair market value of the property as of January 1, 2007. In order to preserve the right of appeal this bill must generally be paid by February 1, 2008. The deadline for filing an application for abatement with the local assessors is also generally February 1, 2008. The assessors have three months from that date of filing the application to act on it. If the assessors fail to act within three months of the filing, the application is deemed to be denied. An appeal from a denial may be taken to the State Appellate Tax Board within three months of the date of the denial.
In New Hampshire equalization ratios are very important in determining whether or not real estate is fairly assessed. Sometimes the question arises as to what is the appropriate equalization ratio. If the assessors and the taxpayer have not conducted there own ratio studies the ratio studies conducted by the State Department of Revenue Administration are relied upon. The Department of Revenue Administration conducts two different studies, one determines the weighted mean equalization ratio and the other is the median equalization ratio. These two studies can arrive at significantly different figures. The Department of Revenue Administration and the Courts have stated that in real estate tax appeal cases the median equalization ratio is preferred. However, this has not prevented some assessors from arguing the weighted mean equalization ratio is more appropriate. These arguments seem to always arise when the weight mean ratio is higher than the median ratio and not the other way around.
In Rhode Island a “true and exact account” must be filed by January 31st of each year in order to maintain a future valid appeal. The account must contain a complete list of all “ratable” property owned or possessed by the taxpayer with a claimed value as of December 31st. An extension to file the account will be granted if it is requested by the January 31st due date. The taxpayer then may bring the account at any time between March 1st and March 15th. The reason for the account is to assist the assessors in valuing property for the tax bills that are generally issued during the summer. Failure to comply with the requirements of filing account can be fatal to an appeal. It is incumbent upon the taxpayer to seek out the account forms or to fashion an account form. Taxpayers should take extra care to file a proper account every year.