Today is the deadline to file an appeal on your real property assessment. Approximately 100,000 ‘green cards’ were simultaneously sent out on January 12 which started the clock ticking on the 30 day right to appeal your tax assessed valuation. Go to www.muni.org/pa to download a copy of the appeal form but before you decide to make a last minute appeal, there are some ground rules you need to follow. Just because you think your taxes are too high is not grounds for appeal. Neither is the fact your value may have changed too much in one year. Nor is the fact that you can’t afford to pay these taxes grounds for an appeal. What are grounds for adjustment is if your property assessed value is excessive and unequal to similar properties in your area. Or if your property was improperly valued. In other words, if the description of your property has an error such as a triple car garage when in fact it is only a double. Other items that are sometimes missed by an assessor could be the number of bathrooms. You can also appeal if you believe your property has been undervalued but I doubt that ever happens because no one wants to pay more property taxes since the Municipality has one of the highest property taxes in Alaska and in many parts of the nation.
Alaska law states that the assessor shall assess property at its full and true value as of January 1 of the assessment year. The true value definition is the estimated price if the property were sold in an open market with both a willing buyer and seller. Alaska, however, is a nondisclosure state when it comes to market value. In other words, buyers and sellers are not required to disclosure the amount they sold or purchased a property. The MOA and Alaska will send you a form to ‘voluntarily’ fill out. However, savvy buyers and sellers usually ignore this request for disclosure. So assessors become detectives. They search online, social media and print material looking for properties advertised for sale. They have also been known to drive communities and pick up flyers on homes for sale.
If you believe you have a legitimate case for a lower tax assessed valuation and you can produce comparable sales of similar properties within the last three years, you may indeed have a shot at lowering your tax bill. You also may submit additional evidence by checking that box on the appeal form. If that is the case, you are granted an additional fifteen days to produce more evidence. Some appeals are handled at the counter, although today is probably not the day for a visit. However, you can still file an appeal by 5 pm.
Appeals are heard by the Board of Equalization. The appellant bears the burden of proof and all evidence must be submitted within 15 days of the filing of the appeal. That date is February 27, 2020. Just because you file an appeal, doesn’t mean you don’t have to pay your taxes. If you win an appeal, your taxes will be prorated. However, filing an appeal can also mean that the Board of Equalization may raise the assessment if they consider your argument irrelevant or frivolous.
There is an appeal fee based upon assessed value. It ranges from $30 dollar to $1,000. If your appeal is resolved prior to the Board’s hearing or you have provided the data and access to the property and you appear at the hearing, the deposit will be refunded. If you disagree with the Board’s decision, you can file an appeal to Superior Court which must be filed within 30 days following the Board’s final decision.
There have been few increases or decreases in residential values over the past three years with the average sales price for a single family home hovering around $366,000. However, Girdwood saw a 37% increase in residential values last year and downtown a 17% decrease. That doesn’t mean, however, that your assessed value in those areas followed suit.