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					                                                     WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE




            Homeowner’s Guide
              to Property Tax                                                                                             NOVEMBER 2011


In Washington State, all real and                  Property values                                       Personal property
personal property is subject to tax                State law requires that assessors                     The primary characteristic of
unless specifically exempted by law.               appraise property at 100 percent                      personal property is mobility.
                                                   of its true and fair market value in                  Personal property includes
Property tax was the first tax levied
                                                   money, according to the highest and                   furnishings, machinery and
in the state of Washington. Today,
                                                   best use of the property. Fair market                 equipment, fixtures, supplies,
property tax accounts for about 30
                                                   value, or true value, is the amount of                and tools.
percent of total state and local taxes.
                                                   money that a willing and unobligated
It continues to be the most important                                                                    Most personal property owned by
                                                   buyer is willing to pay a willing and
revenue source for public schools, fire                                                                  individuals is specifically exempt.
                                                   unobligated seller.
protection, libraries, and parks and                                                                     However, if these items are used in
recreation.                                        Real property                                         a business, personal property tax
                                                   Real property includes land,                          applies. For detailed information
The information contained in this
                                                   improvements to land, structures,                     about personal property tax, please
publication is current at the time of
                                                   and certain equipment affixed to                      refer to the Personal Property Tax
production. However, state tax laws,
                                                   structures. Characteristics of real                   publication.
their interpretation, and their
                                                   property that influence the value
application can change because of
                                                   include but are not limited to zoning,
legislative action, reviews, or court                                                                    Changes to property values
                                                   location, view, geographic features,
decisions. This publication will not                                                                     Assessors must revalue real property
                                                   easements, covenants, and the
reflect these changes.                                                                                   at least once every four years. In
                                                   condition of surrounding properties.
                                                                                                         some counties, properties are
                                                   The assessor values real property                     revalued each year and require
                                                   using one or more of the following                    physical inspection at least once
                                                   appraisal methods:                                    every six years.
                                                   ƒ Market or sales comparison                          If your appraised property value
                                                     approach to value is determined,                    changes, you will receive a change
                                                     or estimated, based on multiple                     of value notice that lists the old and
                                                     sales of similar properties. Most                   new appraised value of land and
                                                     residential property is valued using                improvements. By comparing the
                                                     this method.                                        two values, you can determine if your
                                                   ƒ Cost approach to value is                           appraised property value has
                                                     determined based on the cost of                     increased or decreased.
                                                     replacing an existing structure with
                                                     a similar one that serves the same                  The assessed value of your property
                                                     purpose. This method is commonly                    may be less than the appraised value
                                                     used to value new construction.                     if you are receiving any type of
                                                                                                         property tax exemption or reduction.
                                                   ƒ Income approach to value is
                                                     determined based on the income                      Valuation notices are not tax bills. An
                                                     producing potential of the                          increase in value does not necessarily
                                                     property. This method is used                       mean that next year’s property taxes
                                                     primarily to value business                         will increase at a proportionate rate.
                                                     property.
This fact sheet provides general information about Washington’s property tax. For more information or to get answers to specific questions, please
contact your local county assessor’s office.
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                                           WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE




Property tax rates                        up to the one percent limit if it can       If you or the assessor disagrees with
and limitations                           show substantial need for additional        the BOE determination, their
Property tax rates are expressed          funds and its governing board passes        decision can be appealed to the
in dollars per thousand dollars of        a second resolution/ordinance.              State Board of Tax Appeals (BTA).
assessed property value. Assessors                                                    If the appeal at the BTA is a “formal”
                                          Because the Levy Limit does
set the levy rate based on the taxing                                                 appeal compared to an “informal”
                                          not include new construction,
district’s budget request, the total                                                  appeal, the decision made by the
                                          annexations, and voter approved
assessed value of the taxing district,                                                BTA can be appealed
                                          excess levies, a taxing district’s actual
and any applicable levy limitations.                                                  in Superior Court.
                                          revenue increase may be greater
Property tax levy limitations restrict    than one percent.                           Information needed to appeal
or limit increases to property tax                                                    The appeal form must include
rates. Two such limitations include       Appeal of true and                          specific reasons why you believe
the One-Percent Constitutional Limit      fair market value                           the assessor’s valuation is incorrect.
and the Levy Limit.                       If you do not agree with the assessed       Examples may include an appraisal
                                          value of your property, you are             of your property as of the
The one-percent                           encouraged to contact your local            assessment date in question,
constitutional limit                      county assessor’s office.                   excessive deterioration of your
Washington State’s Constitution           Disagreements of property values            property or sales of similar
limits the regular (non-voted)            are often settled at this level. You may    properties reflecting a lower value
combined property tax rate that           request copies of the comparable            for your property. Statements that
applies to an individual’s property       sales information the assessor used         the assessor’s valuation is too high
to one percent of market value ($10       to value your property.                     or property taxes are excessive are
per $1,000). Voter approved special                                                   not sufficient reasons.
levies, such as special levies for        If you are unable to reach an
schools, are in addition to this          agreement, you may file an appeal           For a successful appeal, you must
amount.                                   with the county board of equalization       provide market evidence that clearly
                                          (BOE) in the county where the               shows the assessor’s valuation is
The levy limit                            property is located. Appeal forms           incorrect. This evidence may include
The Levy Limit applies to a taxing        are available at the assessor’s office,     information on sales of comparable
district’s levy amount, and not to        BOE office or http://dor.wa.gov/            properties in your area or
increases in the assessed value of        content/getaformorpublication/              documentation about conditions
individual properties. The limit is       formbysubject/forms_prop.                   of the property that the assessor
based on the population of the            aspx#Appeals                                may not have known. For example,
district as well as the district’s need                                               the land is not suitable for a septic
                                          The completed petition must be              system or is not suitable for
to increase revenue. The law restricts
                                          filed with the BOE by July 1 of the         a building site.
taxing districts from levying, in any
                                          assessment year you are appealing
year, more than a one-percent                                                         If you have any questions about
                                          or within 30 days of the date the
increase in its regular, non-voted levy                                               appeal procedures, please contact
                                          change of value notice was mailed,
over the highest amount that could                                                    your local BOE or the assessor’s
                                          whichever date is later. Some
have been levied since 1985.                                                          office. The telephone numbers are
                                          counties have extended the filing
A taxing district with a population       deadline up to 60 days. Please check        listed in the county government
below 10,000 must adopt a                 with the Board of Equalization in the       section of the telephone directory.
resolution/ordinance to be able           county where the property is located
to increase its levy up to the one-       to determine your filing deadline.
percent limit.
Taxing districts with a population
of 10,000 or more are limited to the      You must provide market evidence that the assessed
lesser of one percent or the rate of
inflation with the adoption of a
                                          value does not reflect true and fair market value.
resolution/ordinance. If the rate of
inflation is less than one percent, the
district could increase its levy
                                                             2
WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE




Property tax rates vary                  How to pay your property taxes
Many factors determine property          Property tax statements are mailed
tax rates, the amount of property        by the county treasurer in February
tax due on comparable properties         of each year. To avoid interest and
will vary throughout a county. The       penalties, at least half of the amount
three main factors that determine        due must be paid by April 30 (if the
the tax rate include:                    tax is less than $50 it must be paid in
                                         full by April 30) and the balance by
ƒ various combinations of taxing
                                         October 31. You can pay your
  districts in different areas of the
                                         property tax in person or by mail.
  county
                                         Some counties are now accepting
ƒ budget amounts for each taxing         electronic payments via the county
  district, and                          treasurer website. Check with your
ƒ voter-approved special levies          county treasurer to see if this option
  and bonds.                             is available to you. When paying by
                                         mail, be sure to write the tax parcel
                                         or account number on your check
Calculating your taxes                   and include the tax statement
If you know the assessed value of        payment stub.
your property and the tax levy rate,
you can calculate the amount of tax.     Many lending companies pay the
For example, if the assessed value       property tax for the homeowner from
of your property is $150,000 and         a property tax reserve account. In this
the levy rate is $9.41 per thousand      case, tax statements are sent directly
dollars of value, your estimated         to the lending company. If your
tax will be $1,411.50.                   lending company pays the tax
                                         directly and you would like to receive
              $150,000                   information, please contact your local
     X .00941 ($9.41 per $1,000)         county treasurer’s office.

        $1,411.50 tax liability          Questions: If you have questions
                                         about paying your property taxes,
                                         please contact your local county
                                         treasurer’s office.

Where your property tax money goes
             Counties 16.5%



        Cities and
        Towns 13.5%


            Fire 5.3%

            Ports 1.2%

                *Other 9.3%                             Schools 54.2%

* Other includes regional libraries, parks and recreation, emergency medical,
and hospital districts. (Distribution of 2010 tax year)


                  3
                                             WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE




Reductions, exemptions, deferrals and assistance
Reductions
Destroyed Property: Any real or             Three-year tax exemption on value         Property tax deferral program for
personal property that has been             of remodel: If you improve your           homeowners with limited income:
destroyed in whole or part, or is in an     single family residence such as           If qualified, you can defer your
area that has been declared a disaster      adding a new room, deck, or patio,        second half property taxes, due
area by the governor or the county          you may qualify for a three-year tax      in October, in an amount up to 40
legislative authority and has been          exemption on the value of the             percent of the equity in your home.
reduced in value by more than 20            improvements. Normal maintenance          There is no age or disability
percent may be eligible for a               does not qualify. To receive the          requirement but you must have
property assessment reduction and           exemption, you must apply through         owned your home for at least 5 years.
or abatement of property taxes.             your local county assessor’s office       Household income and equity
Destroyed property form applications        prior to beginning your remodeling        determine eligibility. The interest
are available at your assessor’s office     project.                                  rate varies annually and for deferrals
or on line at http://dor.wa.gov/docs/                                                 made in 2011 it is 3 percent.
forms/proptx/forms/taxpclaimreduca          Other exemption: Churches,
ssmtdestryrealpersprop_e.xls                government entities, and many             Assistance
                                            nonprofit agencies are exempt from        Property tax assistance for widows
Current use program and                     property tax if they use property         or widowers of veterans: This
designated forest land: Owners of           for a tax-exempt purpose. The             program is a grant assistance
agricultural, open space, timber land,      department of Revenue determines          program to help you pay property
or designated forest land may qualify       which properties are entitled to the
for a reduced assessment under the
                                                                                      taxes. Senior citizens and disabled
                                            exemption based on laws enacted
current use program or as designated        by the Legislature.                       persons who are widows or widowers
forest land. However, additional tax,                                                 of a veteran may qualify. Age or
interest, and penalties or                  Deferrals                                 disability, household income, and
compensating tax may apply when             Under these programs, the State of        your spouse’s veteran status at the
                                            Washington pays all, or a portion, of
property is removed from                                                              time of his/her death determine
classification.                             your property taxes on your behalf.
                                            Unlike the tax exemptions, deferred
                                                                                      eligibility for this program. The
Applications must be received by            taxes are a lien on the property. The     Department of Revenue administers
December 31 for a reduction in              lien becomes payable, together with       this program and approves or denies
assessment the following year.              interest, upon sale, transfer, or         claims for assistance.
Application forms are available             inheritance of the property, or when
through the assessor’s office.              the home is no longer your primary
                                            residence. The county assessor
Exemptions                                  approves or denies applications for
Property tax exemption for senior           the deferral programs.
citizens and disabled persons: This
program freezes the value of your           Property tax deferral program for
residence (as of January 1 of the initial   senior citizens and disabled
year of application), exempts all           persons: If qualified, you can defer
excess levies, and may exempt               your property taxes and special
a portion of regular levies, thereby        assessments in an amount up to 80
reducing the amount of property tax         percent of the equity in your home.
due. Senior citizens, veterans with         Senior citizens and disabled persons
a 100 percent service-connected             may qualify. Household income and
disability, and disabled persons            equity determine eligibility. The
may qualify. Household income               current interest rate is set in statute
determines eligibility and level            and is 5 percent.
of exemption. The county assessor
approves or denies applications for
this program.

                                                              4
                                      WASHINGTON STATE DEPARTMENT OF REVENUE




Important dates                       Need more information?
                                      The following publications are
                                                                               For general information contact:
                                                                               Department of Revenue
to remember                           available from your local county
                                                                               ƒ Telephone Information Center
January 1                             assessor’s office. You may also obtain
Real and personal property is                                                    1-800-647-7706
                                      a copy from the Department of
valued for taxes due next year        Revenue online at dor.wa.gov             ƒ Our website, dor.wa.gov

March 31                              or by calling 360.534.1400.              ƒ To inquire about the availability
Applications due for Senior/          ƒ Personal Property Tax                    of this document in an alternate
Disabled Deferral and Widow/                                                     format for the visually impaired,
                                      ƒ Nonprofit Organizations                  please call (360) 705-6715.
Widower Assistance
                                      ƒ Property Tax Deferrals for Senior
April 30                                                                       ƒ Teletype (TTY) users please call
                                        Citizens and Disabled Persons
First half of property taxes due.                                                (360) 705-6718.
                                      ƒ Property Tax Deferrals for
Personal Property listing forms due     Homeowners With Limited Income
to assessor.
                                      ƒ Property Tax Exemptions for Senior
May 1                                   Citizens and Disabled Persons
One percent per month (12 percent     ƒ Assistance Program for Widows
per annum) assessed on delinquent       or Widowers of Veterans
taxes.
                                      ƒ Open Space Taxation Act
June 1                                ƒ Appealing your Property Tax
Three percent penalty assessed on       Valuation to the County Board
current year’s delinquent taxes.        of Equalization
July 1
Deadline for appeals to the County    Questions
Board of Equalization on current      Your local county assessor’s office
year’s assessment; or 30 days from    can answer questions regarding:
date of notification, whichever
                                      ƒ Assessed values
is later.
                                      ƒ Appeals
August 31
                                      ƒ Personal property
New construction placed on current
assessment roll at the valuation      ƒ Current Use Program and
assessed July 31.                       Designated Forest Land
                                      ƒ Property Tax Deferrals for Senior
September 1
                                        Citizens and Disabled Persons
Limited Income Deferral
applications due.                     ƒ Property Tax Deferrals for
                                        Homeowners With Limited Income
October 31
                                      ƒ Property Tax Exemptions for Senior
Second half of property taxes due.
                                        Citizens and Disabled Persons
December 1
                                      Your local county treasurer’s office
Eight percent penalty assessed on
                                      can answer questions regarding:
current year's delinquent tax.
                                      ƒ Tax statements
December 31
Current Use Program and               ƒ Paying property tax
Designated Forest Land                Telephone numbers for county
applications due.                     offices are located in the county
                                      government section (blue pages)                              http://dor.wa.gov
Property tax exemption
                                      of your local telephone directory.
applications for senior citizens
and disabled persons due.
                                                                                                        PTFS0012    06/11

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