Property Tax Statements Require a Close Look This Year

Oregon's county assessors must send out property tax statements to all property taxpayers no later than October 25. If you run a business or own real property, you’ll be getting your statements soon. Over the next few weeks I’ll be covering many of the topics you need to be aware of before December 31, 2018 — your deadline to appeal if your assessor got something wrong this year.  

I get more questions about how to decode property tax statements than any other specific issue. It is easy to find out how much tax is owed, but other than that, property tax statements are generally difficult to understand and it is very hard to glean all the information needed to determine whether or not you should appeal.

Multnomah County property taxpayers should be more diligent than ever because the Multnomah County Assessor's office has recently replaced its property assessment and taxation software. This new software is now responsible for producing all property tax statements that will be sent to property taxpayers in Multnomah County. Anyone who has ever completed a software update knows that there are almost always bugs — so we can give the Assessor some slack if there are problems. The Assessor’s office even admits that it is possible that problems will occur and has set up a hotline for you to call in case of software bugs (503-988-2565).  However, the Assessor’s hands are tied if the problem involves your real market or assessed value and that problem hasn’t been resolved by December 31, 2018. In those cases, you’ll have to file an appeal because, after December 31, assessors are unable to make changes to values. 

Assessors are understanding of the need to protectively appeal and will continue to work with the taxpayer to explain or resolve any issue after the appeal. Once resolved, you typically enter a stipulated judgment with the assessor correcting the issue. In circumstances where the taxpayer and assessor agree that there was no error to correct (just a misunderstanding), the taxpayer can withdraw with no penalty so long as the appeal was filed in good faith (in other words  —  don't file a frivolous appeal!).

For non-residential property taxpayers, the deadline to apply for appeal is difficult to determine. My advice is to assume the December 31, 2018 valuation appeal deadline applies to appeals in this situation; although, there is a good cause exception (ORS 305.288(3)) that may apply if you miss it.

Residential property taxpayers arguably have two years to appeal if there is an error. But again, the December deadline should be followed to be safe.

You can protectively file an appeal any time before December 31 to preserve your rights if you discover a problem with, or have a concern about, your property tax statement. There’s a modest filing fee of $30 if you’re not a state appraiser industrial- or central-assessed company. If you are one of the latter, then your fee is $265 and your appeal is filed with the Tax Court.

In my next post, I will be covering the estimated $3.6 billion of “exception value” being added to taxpayers’ MAV (Maximum Assessed Value) and detail how to determine if that "exception value" was applied to you. It’s not always obvious!