Executive Says Most Homes Overtaxed
Formula Used to Assess Home Value Called Subjective

By Hubble Smith
December 8, 2004

Nearly 60 percent of all homes are overassessed and not in line with their actual value, leading to unfair property tax assessments, the president of American Homeowners Association said.

Although many states, including Nevada, use a detailed formula to assess property values, errors and miscalculations still occur, said Richard Roll, president of the Stamford, Conn.-based association.

"Unfair or inaccurate tax assessments happen for many reasons -- everything from software glitches to mistakes by assessors during housing valuation," Roll said Monday.

Residential real estate taxes have risen by 23.3 percent on average in 12 metropolitan suburbs between 2000 and 2004, according to a recent property tax study published by Runzheimer International.

"It's not just homes go up in value, it's that needs of local government have been spiraling upward. That's really the only justification for property tax increases," Roll said. "If all property increased in value at the same rate and there was no increase in local government budgets, property taxes should not go up."

Homeowners have the right to appeal tax assessments, though studies have shown that less than 2 percent of assessments are appealed, Roll said.

In Las Vegas, where some homeowners have seen property value assessments increase by as much as 60 percent, the number of appeals is about normal for this time of year, Clark County Assessor Mark Schofield said.

He said about 600 appeal packets have been sent out and 25 have come back, though he expects to see more as the Jan. 18 deadline approaches.

"You've got to look at your reason for appealing the assessment," Schofield said. "Ninety-nine percent of the time it's because you feel you can't sell your home for what it's valued at. That's usually not the case here."

Tax dollars for secured and unsecured property in Clark County totaled $1.48 billion for fiscal year 2004-05, compared with $1.29 billion the previous fiscal year, the assessor's office reported.

Rising property taxes have become an issue of renewed interest that will be addressed at this year's legislative session, Schofield said.

He has proposed a 6 percent cap and state Sen. Dina Titus, D-Las Vegas, is requesting a bill that would freeze property taxes.

Schofield said ballooning assessments are a "windfall" to the community, allowing the government to provide necessary infrastructure and services to the public.

"It is revenue they haven't previously enjoyed," he said.

The assessor's office does not consider the amount of tax a property will generate, but "strives to treat everyone equitably" and make assessments according to the law, he said.

Roll, whose association offers a "tax kit," available at www.homeownertaxcut.com, said 75 percent to 90 percent of all appeals result in a reduction of taxes, $400 to $500 on average.

The tax kit provides a comprehensive, step-by-step guide for the 80 million American homeowners who want to protect their rights as property owners, Roll said.

"The question of whether a home is overassessed is not black and white. It's a question of whether the ingredients that went into the recipe for assessment are accurate. It's very subjective in some cases," he said. "Every homeowner needs to take it into their hands that they're not being overassessed, to make sure you're not being overtaxed. It's not going away for the next 10 years."

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