Shocked by property taxes? Help is available

ST. GEORGE – It’s that time of year again when homeowners may dread finding property tax notices in their mailboxes. Residents may not know that they can appeal the county’s property value or that there are a number of tax relief programs available.

Residents should have received a Notice of Property Valuation and Tax Changes that includes the market value of their home or property, their estimated property taxes and tax entities’ hearing schedule.

“That opens up a 45-day window where they can appeal the value – they can’t appeal taxes, they can’t appeal rates, but they can appeal the value (of a residence or business) established by the assessor’s office,” Washington County Clerk/Auditor Kim Hafen said.

The window opened Aug. 1 and continues through Sept. 15. Taxpayers can stop by the Washington County Assessor’s Office every weekday afternoon from 1-5 p.m.

“And if they don’t get satisfaction, we have hired independent appraisers to hear their appeal,” Hafen said. The County Commission serves as the board of equalization and has the final say in disputes.

When appealing a property valuation, a taxpayer needs to bring documentation such as an appraisal or comparable sales, Hafen said.

If a property was purchased within the past year from an unrelated party, the closing or settlement statement for that sale suffices, according to information from the Utah Taxpayers Association. If you choose to share it, that sales price will determine your property’s fair market value.

Taxpayers can also identify at least three properties that are similar in style, quality, size, age, location, land area, etc, and then determine the assessed value or sales price of those three properties.

The least expensive way to obtain comparable sales data is to contact a real estate agent, the Taxpayers Association said, and most agents will provide comparable sales data at no charge.

In Washington County, the majority of appeals relate to whether a property is a primary residence, Hafen said. Primary residences are assessed at only 55 percent of their appraised value, while businesses and second homes are assessed at 100 percent of value.

“That’s a taxable value, they can appeal,” Hafen said.

For more information, see the Washington County Assessor’s Office web page.

Tax relief

“In 2015, there was $2.5 million in tax abatements that were granted to approximately 4,000 taxpayers,” Hafen said. Tax abatement applications are due by Sept. 1. If a resident received a tax abatement last year, a new application form was mailed to them around the first of the year, Hafen said.

Tax relief programs are available for veterans and their spouses or unmarried children; people who are visually impaired; low-income residents who are over 65 years of age, disabled or under extreme hardship.

Some tax abatements are reimbursed in part by the state and a certain amount of tax abatements are built into the tax rates, Hafen said.

Contacts

Application forms are available online. For help with property values, residential exemption forms, appraisal information or valuation appeals, contact the County Assessor by phone at 435-634-5703 or in person at 87 N. 200 East in St. George.

For help with tax relief programs, tax rates or duplicate copies of property tax notices contact the County Clerk/Auditor by phone at 435-634-5712 or in person at 197 E. Tabernacle in St. George.

Email: japplegate@stgnews.com

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