ASSESSMENT APPEALS QUESTIONS & ANSWERS
Should I file an assessment appeal?
It depends. The filing of an assessment appeal for the sake of filing an assessment appeal is unwise and risky. ACS will help take the emotion out of filing an appeal. The basic question that needs to be asked is whether or not the Assessor’s assessment is reasonable as of the January 1 lien date or change of ownership date. Prior to the filing of an appeal ACS will do a preliminary analysis to determine if an appeal is warranted.
When must I file an assessment appeal?
Depending upon in which county your property is located, it could be one of two deadlines, either September 15th or November 30th. Los Angeles County as well as the overwhelming majority of the 58 counties in California has the November 30th deadline.
If you received a Supplemental, Escape or Adjusted assessment notice, the deadline to file is typically 60 days from the DATE OF THE NOTICE. There are exceptions for some counties, including Los Angeles County whereby you have 60 days from the date of mailing of the tax bill. Each county has different rules. We advise that should you receive a Notice of Value Change in the mail you act on it in a timely manner.
How long does the appeal process take?
The Board has two years to hear your case. If they do not hear your case within the time frame you win by default. This rarely happens. The process is not quick. Depending upon the county your case will generally be heard within 6-18 months. The sooner you file the earlier you generally will get heard.
What is the role of ACS in the appeal process?
ACS is a consulting firm that provides expert property tax representation and advice prior to, during and after the appeal process. Not only do we prepare and file the appeal for you, one of our in-house consultants actually prepares a professional property tax appraisal. We interact with the Assessor’s staff appraisers, handle information requests and aggressively represent our clients before the Assessor’s Office and Assessment Appeals Board.
Do I need to be present at the hearing?
No, provided your agent has an agent’s authorization form and is registered with the county, where applicable. Generally there is a lot of waiting and your presence is not necessary. That being said, you are entitled to be at the hearing if you wish.
I spoke with the Assessor and they said that they would review my value. Should I do anything more?
YES. Merely speaking with the Assessor does not protect your rights. If you have a dispute you must file a timely assessment appeal to preserve your rights and toll the statute of limitations for refund/ correction purposes.
I filed an administrative Prop. 8 decline in value review with the Assessor. Need I file an assessment appeal?
YES. An administrative review is performed by the Assessor’s Office. Whatever value they determine cannot be appealed to the Assessor but rather to the Assessment Appeals Board. The Assessor is NOT an independent Board, whereas the Assessment Appeals Board is. Unless an Assessment Appeals Board application is timely filed you will have to live with whatever decision the Assessor makes.
I was thinking of handling the appeal myself. Is there a downside?
Just like repairing your own car, some people have a knack for doing things themselves, especially if they have the time and knowledge. However, the deck is generally stacked against those that do not regularly practice before the Board. There are State Board of Equalization rules and local rules that you must be aware of. In addition, you must prepare an appraisal or have one prepared for you. If you have a third party appraisal, the appraiser must be present at the hearing in order to allow the Assessor to cross examine the appraiser. Expertise, experience before the jurisdiction, and thorough preparation are the keys to a successful assessment appeal. This is where ACS excels.
My attorney, CPA or real estate broker says that they will represent me at the appeal. Why should I use ACS?
There is nothing wrong with having a professional represent you before the Board. However, the question you should ask is, “are they qualified”. Professionals sometimes get in “over their heads” in a practice area for which they do not have expertise. ACS has such expertise and would be pleased to assist your trusted professional with the appeal. There is no learning curve for ACS as this is all we do… property taxes! We totally respect your professional relationship and are only here to help.
If I win my appeal, does the county refund my excess taxes with interest?
YES. However the interest is generally around 3% per year. The interest that the county charges you is 18% per year.
Is there information that I will need to supply to ACS?
If the property is an income producing property we will need rent rolls and income and expense data. If the appeal is a personal property appeal, we will need much more data. Failure the provide information to the Assessor is frowned upon by the Board and is oftentimes a basis for denial. ACS manages the information requests and is the conduit for providing information the Assessor without you having to discuss the relevancy of their requests.
Do I need to pay for “Findings of Fact” with the Assessment Appeals Boards?
Findings of Fact are provided on a fee basis. There must be a request and payment for the Findings before the case begins. If requested, the Board must not only determine the value of your property but explain how they arrived at the value. If you are contemplating appealing a decision to Superior Court in the event of a denial, the findings are critical as is also having a court reporter at the hearing. These are Client costs and are generally only requested where there are legal issues before the Board. The general rule employed by Superior Court is that the Board is the Finder of Fact and is better suited to weigh valuation evidence at the assessment appeal hearing. Unless there is a legal issue or procedure that affects the taxpayer’s due process rights or if a valuation methodology is not handled in a manner consistent with the State Board of Equalization rules, the taxpayer will generally lose.
I plan on selling or refinancing my property. Will a successful assessment appeal have any adverse consequences?
NO. Property tax valuations are as of a specific date. For example, for the current fiscal year we are appealing the value as of January 1. We rely on comparable sales during the previous year and up to three months past the January 1 lien date. Therefore, the valuation date would be different than what a lender or seller would be looking at. In addition, the rules for property tax valuation oftentimes result in different outcomes than do valuations for other purposes.
Can I appeal a Change of Ownership reassessment if not justified?
Yes, the Board is empowered to hear change of ownership disputes.
I owe prior years taxes. Will an assessment appeal provide me with retroactive tax relief?
Generally, no. The timely filing of an assessment appeal is the key to relief. You may only obtain tax relief for the period under appeal, notwithstanding the fact that you may have been over-assessed.
Does the Tax Collector negotiate late payment penalties and interest?
Generally, no. There must be a very good reason for the Tax Collector to abate penalties and interest. Generally there must be an error on the part of the County.
Who has the burden of proof at an assessment appeals board hearing?
The Assessor is presumed to be correct in most appeal hearings. The burden is on the taxpayer to demonstrate that their opinion of value is correct. This is accomplished using one of three approved valuation methodologies, the cost approach, the market approach and the income approach. Many times having at least two approaches to value are necessary. Exceptions to the burden of proof are escape assessments, decline in value appeals for owner occupied single family residences and where the Assessor has not enrolled the purchase price of real property where the sale was determined to be an arms-length transaction.
We have an existing relationship with an out-of-state property tax consulting firm. Should we use ACS?
California property taxes are unique due to Proposition 13. Unless the firm has a solid understanding of the rules and regulations concerning California property taxes you may not be getting the refunds you are owed. ACS only represents taxpayers in California. We have expertise around the state in the various counties and are a respected organization in the eyes of the Assessor’s Office. We know the law, we know the procedure and we know many of the personnel in the various Assessors’ Offices. We have a history of working with clients who have had out-of-state firms representing them. The key is being successful. That is where ACS excels.
How does ACS get compensated?
ACS works on either an hourly or contingency fee basis. On the hourly basis, we bill for our time and expenses. Win or lose, ACS earns its fees just like any other professional. On a contingency fee basis, ACS is compensated based upon a percentage of the tax savings/refunds. We are willing to discuss our fee structure on a case-by-case basis.