What does the Assessor do?

Washington’s property tax system is a budget-based system. This means taxing districts first determine how much property tax they will collect in accordance with the law, and the tax obligation then is distributed among property owners based on the assessed value of the property they own. The Assessor’s role is in the second step.

The Assessor determines the assessed value of all real property in Asotin county, as well as the personal property of businesses, for tax purposes. The Assessor also determines levy rates for taxing districts whenever levies are approved by voters, using assessed values of property within prescribed taxing districts for that purpose. State law requires the Assessor to assess property at its “market” or “true and fair” value. It is the Assessor’s responsibility to determine the fair full market value of all real property in the county for the purpose of making a uniform, fair and equitable determination of tax liability to the taxpayers. This is done by using prescribed practices and procedures used in the appraisal profession, and appraisers in the Assessor office are accredited by the Washington State Department of Revenue. Our appraisers use standard and accepted appraisal principles, in use statewide and nationwide, to arrive at an estimate of market value. The Assessor values real property on a cyclical basis according to a revaluation plan filed with the Department of Revenue. Asotin county is on a four year revaluation program. The Asotin County Assessor sets values on approximately 14,000 parcels of real property for tax purposes.

The Assessor also keeps track of ownership changes, adjusts boundary descriptions according to recorded documentation and keeps descriptions of building and property characteristics up to date. The Assessor maintains thousands of records in its office, including maps and aerial survey photos. Records in the Assessor office are open to the public.

How are property taxes determined?

Asotin county is divided into several different “taxing districts” and each district has its own property tax rates. Each taxing district is unique due to the differing components that comprise property taxes — such as school levies, fire protection districts, county roads, EMS, etc. Depending on their taxing district, property owners in Asotin county currently pay from $10.20 to $13.81 per thousand dollars of assessed property value. Your tax is determined by multiplying the tax rate for your district by the total assessed value of your property per thousand. In other words, if your total tax rate is $12.40 per thousand, and your home is assessed at $130,000, the tax rate is multiplied times 130 to determine the total tax ($12.40 X 130 = $1,612).

What types of property are taxed?

Taxable property is divided into two classes. Real property includes land and all the buildings, structures and improvements to the land. This is the kind of property tax familiar to most people. Property tax also applies to personal property used in the conduct of a business. Personal property includes machinery and equipment, fixtures, furniture, tools and other items used for business purposes, including leased equipment such as copiers and communications equipment. It also includes such things as farm machinery and equipment, logging equipment and the assets of manufacturing companies.

More on personal property taxes.

Tax assessments on personal property are based on information provided by the taxpayer to the Assessor using prescribed forms. These forms provide a format for providing a description of the personal property, its total cost and year of acquisition. The Assessor uses this information to determine value – taking into consideration the type of property, its cost and age. Listings are mailed to established personal property accounts the first of each year and must be returned to the Assessor by April 30. Periodically, the state Department of Revenue conducts audits of businesses subject to taxes on personal property. Businesses that do not have a personal property account number assigned to them should contact the Assessor office. Penalties apply to late submissions or failure to file information with the Assessor office. If you decide to sell or close your business, please contact us. More information about personal property taxes is provided in the Department of Revenue’s publication, Personal Property Tax.

Can I appeal an assessed value?

If you have concerns regarding your property valuation, you may contact the Assessor’s office. Property owners can often settle disagreements at this level without filing a formal appeal. Any property owner who disagrees with the property value determined by the Assessor has the right to appeal that determination to a Board of Equalization comprised of an independent body of citizens that hears and decides appeals related to property valuation.

A petition for appeal must be filed on or before July 1 of the current assessment year, or within 30 days of the mailing of the notice of valuation change, whichever is later. You must complete an appeal petition — a letter or telephone call will not suffice. Appeal forms and instructions can be obtained by contacting the Assessor’s office. You can read or download the publication Appealing Your Property Tax Assessment to the County Board of Equalization. The appeal process is informal and does not require an attorney. The property owner is required to submit clear, cogent and convincing evidence that the appraised value does not reflect market value. Statements that the Assessor’s valuation is “too high” or property taxes “are excessive” are not sufficient. Evidence should include sales of comparable properties, or information on conditions of the property not known to the Assessor. If an appellant is not satisfied with the determination made by the Board of Equalization, an appeal can be made to the State Board of Tax Appeals.

What exemptions are available for homeowners?

Full or partial exemptions from property taxes are available to senior citizens and disabled persons. If you are 62 years of age or older or disabled, own the house in which you live, and have an annual household income of $35,000 or less, you may be entitled to an exemption from paying property taxes on your primary residence. The Assessor administers this program and is responsible for determining if you meet the qualifications. For information or to apply for an exemption, contact the Assessor office. A publication titled Property Tax Exemption for Senior Citizens and Disabled Persons is available online.

Taxpayers eligible for the exemption are required to notify the Assessor’s office if changes in income or living circumstances affect the exemption. Change in status includes death (survivors must notify assessor), change in income, sale of the property, or change in primary residence. A surviving spouse or domestic partner may continue to receive the exemption if he or she is at least 57 years old and meets all the other eligibility requirements.

If you purchase property that is currently receiving a tax exemption, that exemption may not continue to apply to you or the property. Contact the Assessor’s office to determine the exemption status, whether or not the exemption would continue under your ownership, or to determine the tax consequences of purchasing a property that is receiving a tax exemption.

How are my tax dollars being used?

Determining property values and assessing property taxes is the responsibility of the Assessor. As you might imagine, it’s not the most popular job in the county. It is, however, one of the most important. Property taxes help fund our schools, libraries, roads, parks, fire and police protection, emergency medical and other essential services. Even so, paying property taxes is probably not one of your favorite activities. That’s understandable. It can, however, be a little easier if you know what you get in return for your tax dollars.

The cost of state and local government determines how much property tax will be levied. These include the operating costs of county government, as well as other taxing districts such as library, hospital, fire, sewer, and port districts. Property taxes also go to pay off bonds for the capital costs and expenses of voter approved projects such as schools, EMS, etc.

Property taxes are distributed to a wide range of services throughout Asotin county. A portion also goes to the state. Within Asotin county, schools, road districts and emergency medical services are major recipients. County services also are funded, including law enforcement and jails, prosecuting attorney office, superior and district courts, health district, as well as the offices of the Assessor, Auditor, Treasurer, Clerk and the department of public works. The revenues collected from property taxes are the largest source of income and provide almost half the revenue in Asotin county’s general fund. Other sources of income range from receipts for sales taxes to court fines. Following is a breakdown of the county services paid for by property taxes in Asotin county. Most goes to schools, and a large portion goes to the state. 21.73% of property tax dollars go to county government. Of that, 5.37% goes to county road maintenance and construction and the remaining 16.36% goes to the county’s general fund to pay for the services mentioned previously.

Asotin County Tax Dollars Distribution by Percentage

tax_dollars

 

How often are properties revalued?

Asotin County and 16 other counties in Washington state (of 39 total counties) currently do not revalue property annually. Asotin County is on a 4-year revaluation cycle. This means that all property must be revalued at least every four years. Revaluation can be done more frequent if circumstances warrant. Pursuant to a law passed by the state legislature in 2009, a change to annual revaluation by all counties must begin by not later than January 1, 2014. Thereafter, all property in all counties in Washington state will be appraised annually to reflect current market value. This will result in smaller increases in assessed value than Asotin county property owners have experienced in the past with the 4-year revaluation cycle. It will also allow us to adjust property values downward if there is a change in the market, instead of the value being “fixed” for a 4-year period.

Annual revaluation, as opposed to revaluation every 2, 4 or 6 years, will improve the level of assessment, uniformity and predictability. The level of assessment improves when the tax burden is distributed more equitably. This is particularly important for countywide levies such as the state school levy and county levies. Predictability improves because increases in values that result from a 4-year cycle are difficult for taxpayers to understand and accept and results in the area that has just been revalued carrying a larger share of some taxes than other areas. Uniformity improves because all property is assessed every year at market value, which is particularly important if market values begin to decline. Assessed values are no longer “fixed” for 4 years.

About the Current Use program.

The Open Space Taxation Act of 1970 allows property owners to have their farm and agricultural land, timber land, or open space land valued at their “current use” rather than at their highest and best use. The assessor maintains two values for each parcel that is classified in the current use program. The first is the value that would be placed on the land if it was not so classified. This is commonly referred to as the “fair market value.” The second is the current use land value based on its present use, and there is a statutory process for determining the value of lands in the current use program. Land classified in the current use program benefits from a reduced valuation and lower taxes.

A property owner may apply for current use assessment under the open space law, or apply for continuation of current use assessment if acquiring property already so classified. Application forms are available from the county assessor’s office. The owner of land in current use classification must continue to meet the criteria established for qualification, or the assessor may remove the land from the current use classification.

The assessor has statutory authority to require the owner of land classified in the current use program to submit data regarding the use of the land, productivity of crops, income and expense data, and other similar information regarding continued eligibility. If land is withdrawn from the current use classification, it is subject to an additional tax equal to the difference between the amount of tax paid under the current use classification and the tax that would have been paid at true and fair value for the last seven years, plus interest and penalties.

For additional information about the current use program, please read the Open Space Taxation Act publication prepared by the Taxpayer Services Division of the Washington State Department of Revenue.

What are my rights and responsibilities?

Whether you are a homeowner, a land owner or a business owner, you are also a Washington State taxpayer with specific rights and responsibilities. As a taxpayer, it is important to understand your rights and your responsibilities. First, you have the right to timely, fair and equitable treatment with dignity and respect. You have the right to accurate information, appeal procedures and reasons for assessment. And you have the right to a simple and prompt administrative process for hearings and tax refunds and credits.

Nearly every property owner in the county pays property taxes. It is how the state, counties and cities get much of the funding for public services. What responsibilities do you have as a property owner? Most importantly, paying property taxes. Property taxes are due twice each year. The first half is due on April 30 and the second half on October 31. These taxes are payable to the county Treasurer. If taxes are not paid on time, interest and penalties will be charged as prescribed by law. If you have questions concerning the valuation of your property for tax purposes, contact the Assessor’s office. For questions concerning the billing or payment of property taxes, please contact the office of the Asotin County Treasurer.

About the Department of Revenue. The Washington State Department of Revenue (DOR) is the state agency charged with the responsibility of statewide administration of the property tax system. The Property Tax Division of DOR has broad statutory authority for the administration of assessment and tax laws, including authority over Assessors, county commissioners, and other county officials in the performance of their duties relating to taxation. DOR also prescribes specific rules and processes for the assessment of real and personal property. An overview on property taxes is contained in DOR’s publication Homeowner’s Guide to Property Taxes.