Category: Property Tax

Communicating and Sharing Information

As this year’s North Carolina Association of Assessing Officers (NCAAO) President, I’ve tried to make good communication one of my priorities. Across North Carolina, we have received appeals from common taxpayers. There are a lot of them. We can call them multi-jurisdiction taxpayers and define them as individual taxpayers with real and personal property in more than one jurisdiction. It only makes sense for that taxpayer to keep track of how each of us responds to appeals. Which of us concede easily? Which of us have accurate data and can defend our values? Are there any counties that do not have the financial or other resources available to defend values? We know they care about keeping track of us because when those appellants contact us, they’ll let us know right away, “You do know that Durake County dropped their value to $47 per sq ft and New Catamance dropped their value to $52 per sq ft. Don’t you think $90 is a little high”? So to this end, we’ve established a Data Sharing Committee to research the best way we can share information before we get that appeal. Wouldn’t it be better for the counties at $47 per square ft to know other counties are much higher, and why? Wouldn’t it be better for our commercial appraisers to have a contact person in each county to talk with about the numbers, techniques, and resources? This certainly isn’t a game, we’re targeting fairness and equity, not “winning”. But we believe this is a way for our employees to be more proactive instead of feeling like we’re playing defense. If you would like to learn more about the Data Sharing Committee, please contact one of the committee members. A list of committee members can be found on our website here. https://www.sog.unc.edu/resources/microsites/nc-association-assessing-officers/officers-and-committees

Another communication focal point needs to be PTAX. PTAX has been one of our best communication tools since our tax offices, in whole, began widespread use of email. Joe Hunt and his resources at the School of Government introduced us to the idea of the PTAX listserv in 1999, so we’re getting close to 20 years using this same tool that allows one person’s idea or question to be shared with over 1,700 members with the click of a button. At times, either the School of Government or the NCAAO have needed to pull the reins back on PTAX usage. We’ve seen nice poetry and inspirational messages, and we’ve sometimes seen less than kind comments about legislative ideas. All of those things may have a place, but it’s not PTAX. Our NCAAO and NCTCA Legislative Committees and the NCDOR work hard to keep healthy lines of communication in place with legislators and the NC Association of County Commissioners. PTAX isn’t a forum for grumbling. When the send button is pressed, it becomes a public record. If we review the official description of PTAX, it’s technically for assessors and collectors to communicate with each other, but the list is open to all property tax officials, their staffs, and members of the NCAAO and NCTCA. But obviously resources for commercial appraiser and delinquent collector discussions are important too. We’re thinking we need to narrow the focus when using a “PTAX-type” communication tool. So to that end, we’ve already created a listserv limited in membership to the 100 appointed assessors, the NCDOR, and the SOG. It is called assess@listserv.unc.edu. The stated purpose is to create a forum to discuss management level assessment issues open only to the appointed assessor in each county, the School of Government, and North Carolina Department of Revenue. If you are one of the 100 assessors, you’re already a member. Instructions will be sent soon. The creation of a listserv only for appointed collectors is also in the works. While doing this, it’s worth mentioning whether the SOG needs to be involved in the listserv management business anymore, or even if listservs are in our future. Kirk Boone at the SOG has volunteered to be the assessor listserv manager for now, but is it necessary? A listserv list can be managed from a number of web-based email providers for free. And, regardless of where a listserv is managed, it’s still a public record. If an email is made or received in connection with the transaction of public business, it is a public record. It doesn’t matter if it’s on a private server or sent from a private email address.

So what about the future of “ptax-type” communication for all of us? I’m talking from assessors, appraisers, and data collectors to the appointed collector and delinquent collection clerks. Certainly individual listservs are easy and free and we can do it ourselves. But there’s one more new resource out there that has been well received and it completely replaced the NC Finance Officers listserv. It’s called NC Finance Connect, https://www.sog.unc.edu/resources/tools/nc-finance-connect

NC Finance Connect was launched around the beginning of 2017 in response to the vision of School of Government faculty and due to the 1,400-member finance officers listserv sometimes overloading email inboxes with questions and comments not directly related to their specific area. Members also found it difficult to find previously posted discussions and documents. Sound familiar? NC Finance Connect attempts to limit these problems, narrow discussions, plus add new features. There are already property tax discussion topics and I understand from the SOG that other categories can be created. We’ll need to go slow with this tool. There is a learning curve. But check it out. Could this replace PTAX and other listservs?

I hope all readers will continue to communicate, and even increase communication, about assessment and collection. We have some of the best tools ever to do this among jurisdictions. But please don’t forget to communicate internally first. Go to your supervisor. If you are the supervisor, go to the assessor or collector. If you are the assessor or collector, consider asking a colleague from another jurisdiction whether it would be appropriate on PTAX. If any of you need answers to assessment and collection questions, there should be a resource there in your jurisdiction to help. Let’s use PTAX with care and restraint. If there’s any thought about whether a PTAX post might be improper, slow down first. Proceed with caution. But please know that your question or comment is important. Let’s all work together to find the best forum for it.

Appraisal and Reappraisal. Just Do It?

In late 2014, just after joining the SOG, the NCDOR included me in the initial discussions among assessors about North Carolina’s reappraisal standards. This blog post includes some of the thoughts and questions that I shared with the group at that time. Please keep in mind that this post is written informally, from my perspective during late 2014. I was discussing with the committee, mainly through emails, whether the assessment system our taxpayers deserve was being delivered. On the other side of an inadequate reappraisal, I wasn’t sure our lawmakers in Raleigh would accept an excuse of, “We weren’t given the needed resources”.  I’ll refer again back to this related blog post on ways to request what is needed.

Continue reading

Are you a Tax Administrator or a Tax Supervisor? Of course you aren’t

Try this online exercise. Go to Chapter 105 of the North Carolina General Statutes. Here’s a link. Once there, most browsers will allow a search feature. A common way to search in many software applications is to press the <Ctrl> key +F. Now search all of Chapter 105 for “tax administrator”. It doesn’t exist. But there are lots of tax administrators in North Carolina, right? Now search all of Chapter 105 for “tax supervisor”. The tax supervisor is referenced 9 times in the Machinery Act. And if you read the context of those references, there are a few important roles involved there. How many counties have a tax supervisor to fulfill these roles?

 

Continue reading

To Lower, or Not to Lower, That is the Question

Although there are no deaths to avenge in this story, it can be a tragedy to lower a  business personal assessment when it is not warranted. Reducing a value, is a de facto exemption. It is an expense to the county. Accounts (parcels) with the highest value in local governments are quite often business personal property accounts. When a BPP assessment is reduced without proper reason, it can create de facto classifications. This means your largest taxpayers could be assessed at a lower assessment ratio than the smallest residential taxpayers. That doesn’t sit well with me. There are certainly many variables to consider when faced with a request to lower an assessed value. Read on for this 5 act, I mean 5 question, blog post.

Continue reading

Planning for Success (Part 1)

In a previous post, I mentioned objective and subjective data along with the NCDOR’s new reappraisal standards. That information will be helpful when reading this post. The new reappraisal standards have been in development for over two years and have involved committees with members from the NCDOR, UNC School of Government, and NCAAO. In August, the NCDOR emailed a draft of those standards to all assessors for review and comment. Some comments from local tax officials have been related to the need for additional staff in order to meet the new standards. Chapter 5 of Assessment Administration. Chicago, IL: IAAO, 2003 is a well written chapter detailing the management tasks needed for an assessment office to meet requirements and goals.  This post focuses on how planning well includes an effective justification of the assessor’s need for staff and resources. Understand first that we all engage in planning almost every day. It’s either done formally or informally. So if we’re going to plan anyway, we should plan well and be exposed to the best practices. Regarding planning, Albert Einstein is rumored to have said, “If I had 20 days to solve a problem, I would take 19 days to define it.” Our objective in this post is really to turn staff and resource concerns into math problems, without requiring Albert Einstein’s help for the solution.

These new reappraisal standards, if followed, will alter your goals and plan objectives. For example, checking and updating property characteristics data at a designated level of accuracy is an example of a plan objective tied to the goal of meeting the NCDOR reappraisal standards. That objective requires specific activities. Activities require people and resources. We hope all local tax officials desire to do quality appraisal and reappraisal work for the public they serve. Our taxpayers deserve competency, fairness, and equity. No doubt, high standards are needed and the NCDOR should be applauded for issuing them. NCGS 105-273(10a) defines a local tax official as including a member of a county board of commissioners. And while all local tax officials most likely desire to do a good job and meet standards, raising standards undoubtedly can require more staff or other resources, which in turn requires adequate funding.

“[T]he budget becomes an expression of public policy in terms of the resources a government is willing to allocate for equitable property taxation. The budget is also a reflection of how much political support exists for accurate and equitable assessments. Legal and administrative responsibilities cannot be met if resources are inadequate.”  Assessment Administration, 119.

Continue reading

Are all North Carolina County Property Tax Appraisers Subject to USPAP?

This is the exact question that I was asked recently.

“Are all North Carolina, county, ad valorem, real estate appraisers subject to the Uniform Standards of Professional Appraisal Practice (USPAP)?”

This could be a very short blog post. The answer to the question is, “no”. But a different question, “Should all North Carolina county ad valorem appraisers comply with USPAP?” leads to a more in depth discussion.  The answer to that question is, “yes”.  I believe if you act as an appraiser, you should comply with USPAP.

Continue reading

Speaking the Same Language with Data

It is comforting to know that as assessors and appraisers, we speak the same language. We had a great learning experience last week in IAAO 331, Mass Appraisal Practices and Procedures. Our instructor was David Cornell, CAE, MAI. David is from New Hampshire and brought fantastic discussions to our group of 23 North Carolinians. The discussions and examples we experienced can be used for improving appraisal equity and uniformity in individual jurisdictions throughout our state. One of the items that we discussed was a worthy repeat from other mass appraisal courses: The importance of data in the assessor’s office. Not only do we need to collect the right data for model specification, but we have to collect it accurately.

At the upcoming NCAAO Fall Conference, the NCDOR will be conducting sessions on their new reappraisal standards, to be published later this year. Continue reading

Dark Stores

There are many worthy assessment-related questions posed on PTAX and elsewhere that I hope we can address during the life of this new blog. But given our blog title, Death and Taxes, and a topic looming around us that some have coined Dark Stores, it seems like a dark and creepy coincidence to start right here.
Continue reading

Welcome!

Benjamin Frankin, (1706-1790) , North American printer, publisher, writer, scientist, inventor and statesman. Source: Wkipedia

Our new Constitution is now established, and has an appearance that promises permanency; but in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.

Benjamin Franklin, in a letter to Jean-Baptiste Leroy, 1789

Continue reading

© 2017 Death and Taxes

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑