January 23, 2017

You HAVE Less than 1 Month to make an Appointment with the Tax Assessor’s Office

If you think you are being over assessed each and every year on/or before February 20th in every community in Connecticut a property owner should consider deciding whether or not their property- be it a personal residence, multi-family or other investment properties might be over assessed and, thus the tax bill you may think may be too high for the value of your property.

Each year the Assessor in each community is required to accept a tax assessment appeal to have a complaint filed with their office until February 20th by state statute. Once properly filed the paperwork is turned over to the town or city’s Board of Tax Assessment Review. That Board usually consists of two or three individuals appointed by the Mayor or City Council on an annual basis to hear the tax payer’s complaints. Usually the Board schedules hearings to discuss the complaints. Common complaints are: the mistakes that may have been made by the Assessor’s Office; by the private Assessing Company that may have not properly examined the Subject property; or may have made a clerical error; the taxpayer may have found or discovered an obvious or hidden error. All of these issues are a basis for a taxpayer to analyze if the town or their assessing company may have over valued the property. Also, every 5 years each town in CT is required to do a complete revaluation of the grand list. Separately to this is a list of towns who performed a revaluation as of October 2016.

Each town’s Assessor’s Office may either perform their own assessment work or they may hire appraisal companies or professionals who supplement the town’s staff with area people who might already be familiar with the area. However, many times assessors or their hired appraisal companies perform a mass appraisal utilizing computer logarithms. The Assessor and staff should be actively involved in guiding the Revaluation Company in the processing of the Assessments: in pointing out specific facts, locations, amenity adjustments, and particulars that are relevant to the community. Monitoring the figures and valuations should be objective findings completing the Revaluation Process. The valuations are based on the assessment figures which are 70% of the value. Therefore if they figure the value is $100,000 as an example, then the assessment is 70% or designated as $70,000.

The Assessment figures are computed from the Assessors standards which are different from appraiser valuation methods which are based on the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (known as USPAP). Appraisers use three methods: the comparable sales approach, the income approach, and the Cost or replacement method. Depending upon the reliability of the Assessment Office or its Revaluation team one method may be stressed over another. Over the years it is not unusual to find that different Assessor Offices like to weigh one method over another, which may be challenged if it results in an over-assessment. In any event the Assessors methods can be different than the Appraiser’s methods in reaching a valuation or fair market value. In cases of an income property the taxes are typically removed from the calculations and later factored in at a 2% figure before a valuation number, and added in as a capitalization rate figure.

So do you think your taxes are too high? You go to the February, March or April hearing- which is usually a pretty informal affair - and explain your reasoning as to why the assessment should be reduced to the Board Members (there may be someone from the Assessors nearby to correct an error or review) but unless there is a true error –square footage/condition/wrong use/ or an obvious mistake then the Board will probably pass and not change any figure. Then you have to decide is it worth the fight? Meaning appeal to the Superior Court!

Keep in mind that the mill rate set annually by each town has no bearing on the assessment appeal, except that its rate (mill rate) multiplied times the Assessment are the taxes. If you have paid the full tax, you can request a refund as part of your appeal, plus ask for costs and interest. For instance, if there are several similar residential properties assessed much lower than your residential property, it may be worth challenging. If your commercial property assessment seems too high or appears to be excessive then you have to decide whether or not to challenge. The best time to challenge an assessment is at the beginning of the 5 year revaluation period since the assessment, unless there are changes to the property, stays the same & all the valuation computing is based on that October date.

Now after the Board returns their paperwork to you indicating no change in the assessment, you will have another 60 days to file a suit to challenge the findings. Obviously, this is a suit which can get costly. However, if you have an appraiser which can support your contention of over assessment, the only way left to reduce the assessment is for the taxpayer to file a suit. As with all suits, there are filing fees, legal fees, and court time to get it to a pretrial, and at the pretrial there should be an appraiser there who has pretty much completed a summary appraisal report based on the date in question going back to the October date of revaluation . There are 2 judges in the state taxation court in New Britain where these cases are heard and they will try to work out a compromise between the parties. Most likely the town or city Assessor will appear with their corporation counsel and perhaps a member of staff or a member of the revaluation company. Going to the pretrial without an appraisal known as an ad valorem report will make it much harder to equitably resolve the case. A trial of course will significantly increase your cost, especially with expert testimony needed. In most cases, the court will also require post trial briefs outlining each party’s argument. Because trials can be expensive, a taxpayer must evaluate the cost as at that point may not be worth the additional money and efforts. Resolving the case in pre-trial in this appraiser’s opinion might lead to a more satisfactory solution and compromise of efforts, time and money.

So think 2-20- 17 – Monday, February 20th NOW and make your decision, REMEMBER, YOU MUST file the request to first make the appointment so you can present your position on the assessment. Without the Board of Tax Appeals appointment, you cannot proceed to a further appeal.


www.marcgottesdiener.com Hartford’s Real Estate Counselor 877-HERES-HE lp

The content of this memorandum is not to be considered legal advice and the reader is encouraged to seek independent legal advice from a licensed Connecticut attorney.
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