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New Concerns over D.C. Appeals

by Tom Branham, Washington DC, November 2012

 

Recent developments in Washington D.C. are creating new concerns about property tax appeal hearings. Property owners may have to fight harder and wait longer to win a fair and equitable valuation.

 

Leadership Concerns

 

The D.C. Chief Tax Appraiser recently resigned -- the fourth Chief Appraiser to leave the District in the last five years. His departure leaves a void in the continuity of policies and procedures. Further, it leaves a serious lack of leadership for the appraisal staff. This could make negotiations and settlements even more difficult.

 

There are also serious concerns about the new Real Property Tax Appeals Commission (RPTAC). As government employees, their primary allegiance is to the District rather than to taxpayers.

 

Manpower Concerns

 

Before the RPTAC was formed last year, the citizen-based appeals board had 50% more members. Even so, it could not resolve all the appeals by the statutorily-mandated deadlines.

 

With fewer members and more appeals to be handled, there is little hope that the new commission will be able to make appeal decisions and notify taxpayers in a timely manner.

 

Additional Concerns

 

The CFO's office has requested authority to appeal unfavorable commission decisions to Superior Court, increasing the burden on taxpayers.

 

In addition, property owners' requests for a meaningful rehearing process have never been adequately addressed by current or former boards or commissions.

 

Even though it may be more difficult for D.C. owners to correct an inappropriate property valuation this year, it's certainly worth the effort. Achieving an equitable assessment is the key to minimizing your property tax expense.