by Stephen J. Lenihan
Each year the County Assessor must, prior to March 1, mail to each property owner a Notice of Valuation for their real property. The property owner then has sixty days in which to appeal the valuation of his real property to the County Assessor. In Pima County this year, the deadline to file an administrative appeal was typically April 26, 2016 for the 2017 tax roll. This is a simple tried and true system, but what if you missed the appeal deadline? There is a remedy. In Arizona, a property owner has the option of appealing directly to the Arizona tax court on or before December 15, 2016.While the administrative appeal to the Assessor is a simpler process, there are advantages to filing in the tax court. The most obvious advantage is that whereas the administrative appeal deadline for the 2017 tax roll was April 26, 2016, the deadline for an appeal in the tax court is December 15, 2016.
Another important advantage is due to the nature of the appeals process. In the case of administrative appeal, a property owner is usually allowed a brief meeting with an appraiser in the County Assessor’s office. Upon appeal from the County Assessor to the State Board of Equalization, the taxpayer is typically granted a hearing rarely lasting more than one-half hour. In the case of an appeal to the tax court, the process allows for discovery, just like any other litigation, and it allows for substantially more time in which to develop your case and to negotiate with the County. While many cases may settle after a single meeting with the County representatives, some cases require multiple meetings, site visits, and exchange of information over a period of months.
Discovery in a tax court setting may be an advantage to a property owner in that the property owner is entitled to obtain certain information from the County. However, the County is also able to require the property owner to provide certain information to the County. For this reason, if the purchase price of the property, the mortgage amount or the property insurance coverage exceeds the full cash value of the property as determined by the Assessor, it may not be wise to file an appeal in the tax court. Not only is it more difficult to negotiate or win a reduction in the full cash value when the purchase price, mortgage amount or insurance coverage exceeds the full cash value, the County also has the right to request an increase in the valuation based upon information they obtain during discovery.
While the option of filing a case in the tax court is certainly a good one, it should not be pursued without careful consideration of the matters listed above as well as other matters.
Stephen J. Lenihan is the president of The Lenihan Law Firm, P.C. Mr. Lenihan graduated from the University of Arizona with a Bachelors of Science in Business Administration in 1972 and a Juris Doctorate in 1976. Prior to entering the practice of law, Mr. Lenihan was a certified public accountant in the tax department of Haskins and Sells (now Deloitte) and tax director of the Tucson office of Laventhol and Horwath. Subsequently, he became general counsel for a regional homebuilding company and president of its Tucson division. In the practice of law, Mr. Lenihan has represented clients in the Arizona Tax Court for more than 20 years. Mr. Lenihan represents homebuilders, developers and others in real estate and commercial matters, including property tax and condemnation issues. He is an AV-Preeminent rated lawyer by Martindale and Hubbell, as determined by input from his peers
TAKING A BREAK THIS SUMMER? BEFORE YOU LEAVE ON VACATION . . .
Summer is a great time to take a vacation and enjoy some rest and relaxation away from home. Here are some tips for things you should do before you leave to save on your utilities and prevent any accidental damage to your home.
- Turn off the water heater at the breaker panel if electric, or shut off the valve if its gas
- If you will be away for more than a couple of weeks, consider emptying your fridge, defrosting and unplugging it
- Adjust your thermostat to a higher setting
- Close windows and blinds to keep heat out during the summer and in during the winter
- Unplug all unnecessary appliances and electronics to save energy and protect them from possible damage from power surges
- Put several lamps on timers to run only during the evening hours – this gives the illusion of someone being home without wasting energy during the day
- Turn the water valves off to washing machines, dishwashers, ice machines and hot water heaters
- Make sure your gutters are clean and free of debris