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Mistakes on tax notices must be appealed

Patrick Parkinson, Of the Record staff

Parkites experienced sticker shock after opening their tax disclosure notices last week because property values in Park City jumped 25 percent, officials say.

"We had wild, wild market sales there," Summit County Assessor Barbara Kresser said. "They seem to have the majority of difficult changes this year."

The value of condominiums in Park City didn’t rise significantly, she said, adding, "It was mostly the single-family."

Aerie residents, in particular, have complained about the tax increases, Kresser said.

Those who own homes re-appraised this year by the Summit County Assessor’s Office suffered the biggest hits, Summit County Auditor Blake Frazier said.

"That is very typical of what happens, but the thing that has happened this year is the dramatic increase in values," Frazier said.

To maintain accurate tax rolls, state law requires property in Utah be re-appraised every five years. According to Kresser, property was also re-appraised this year in Ranch Place, Willow Draw, Uintalands, Oakley and Coalville.

"Our values in the county went up 25 percent this year over last year," Frazier said. "If you were re-appraised, that’s the sticker shock."

Property owners have less than a month to appeal mistakes made on Summit County tax disclosure notices mailed out Aug. 1.

"We’re human, we make mistakes, so people need to read their notice and look it over," said Carla Richins, chief deputy Summit County assessor. "If it’s wrong, we want it to be right."

The notices reveal property values and how much tax homeowners owe in 2006. Appeals must be filed by Sept. 15.

"Maybe a re-appraisal was done wrong," Frazier said.

Whether appraisers used the incorrect square footage when they calculated the amount of taxes owed or mistakenly "added an extra zero" to the value of the property, Frazier said, "Obvious errors are corrected pretty easily."

"We might put an extra zero and make $1,000,000 out of $100,000," Richins said. "If it’s something that we can handle internally then they don’t have to come in for an appeal."

Homeowners who dispute property values determined by the County Assessor’s Office often provide recent appraisals or closing documents to back up their claims, she added.

"A lot of people call initially to complain about taxes. We can’t do anything about taxes, we can only do something about value," Richins said, adding that there are more than 50 different taxing districts in the county.

Most often, homeowners appeal because Summit County attempts to tax them as if they own a second home in the area, Richins said.

"The biggest majority of the calls we get are regarding primary/non-primary," Richins said. "That’s a big one."

The owners of so-called primary homes, who either live in the house full-time or rent it to a tenant long term, can qualify to receive a property-tax exemption of roughly 45 percent.

"It’s statewide and it’s something that everybody has to apply for," Richins said. "If we have it down as a non-primary home and it is their primary residence, they need to contact us."

Property owners who cannot settle their disputes with the Assessor’s Office can meet with an independent hearing officer, she added.

"If they don’t agree with the value, then it is up to the taxpayer to prove that our value is wrong," Richins said, adding that county-level decisions can be appealed to the Utah State Tax Commission.

Values determined by Summit County are based mostly on the market value in the neighborhood on Jan. 1, she said.

"All residential property is (appraised) based on sales prices of properties in your area," Frazier said. "We don’t just go out and arbitrarily raise values."

Because values increased, most tax rates in Summit County went down in 2006, he added.

"That has happened statewide," Frazier said, adding that home values in Washington County jumped 45 percent. "There is such an influx of money coming into the state that it’s driving market prices up."

Meanwhile, four entities were considering raising property taxes this week, Frazier said.

Possible tax hikes were slated in the Park City School District, South Summit School District, Oakley City and Summit Service Area No. 3 in Silver Creek, he added.

"Tax rates have decreased for everybody other than those four entities," Frazier said.

Contact the Summit County Assessor’s Office at 615-3257 for more information about the tax disclosure notices.


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