Insights from March's Property Tax Webinars
Larry Hirsch Kieran Jennings
Tax Expert Tax Attorney
You might be able to fight city hall, but you can’t fight taxes, says Larry Hirsh, founder and president of Golf Property Analysts, who led a recent NGCOA-sponsored webinar series designed to help golf course owners and operators better understand property tax issues.
“The most important thing you need to understand about ad valorem taxation is that you can’t fight taxes; you can only dispute the assessment,” says Hirsh, who has appraised more than 2,000 golf courses in a 25-year career.
“If the value on your assessment is (accurate), and the millage rate doubles in your jurisdiction and your taxes go up, you probably can’t fight that,” said Hirsh, who was joined as a presenter by Kieran Jennings, a tax attorney with the firm of Siegel Siegel Johnson & Jennings.
Before you decide to take on your local assessor, Hirsh and Jennings advised owners to “make sure you’re in the right.”
“There’s a school of thought out there that says you don’t get something if you don’t ask,” Jennings said. But once assessment litigation begins, there may be no hiding information that owners would have preferred remained private. “You might start a battle that you wished you hadn’t.”
The two property tax experts also weighed in on other related subjects:
On due diligence …
Don’t presume the assessor is always correct. He or she will have a presumption of correctness in most states. But it’s incumbent on you to be proactive and review your assessment regularly.
On the need for outside help …
There are a lot of different ways to go about contesting your assessment. [In the final analysis], you will probably require both an attorney and an appraiser if you go to court because in many states representation of clients by tax consultants is now considered an unauthorized practice of law.
Pros and cons of contingencies …
If you think tax savings from a favorable ruling will be relatively small, hire an appraiser on a contingency basis to minimize your legal fees. If you feel you have a strong case and believe a favorable ruling will lower your taxes significantly, it’s going to be less expensive in the long run to hire an independent appraiser as your expert.
On the advantages of local counsel …
It’s often a good idea to use local legal counsel that understands not only the tax laws in the local jurisdiction, but also can assess the risk of litigation from an experienced perspective.
On fair and equitable valuations …
There must be constitutional uniformity in how properties are valued. If you think your property was valued differently, using a different methodology, you have a case on that basis.
Listen to a recording of the last Property Tax Webinar. Click here.
Learn more about this NGCOA Focus Issue. Click here.