Property tax issues and appeals

Appealing a property tax assessment. All King County property owners receive from the Assessor (an elected official) an assessment notice in the mail between April and September of each year. Homeowners have 60 days from the date of their mailing notice to file a notice of intent to appeal their assessment to the County Board of Equalization. After that, there is a deadline to submit supporting information, which must include a listing of 3-5 comparable homes that that are similar in square feet, lot size, bedrooms, bathrooms, etc., but which sold for less than your home is assessed for.

Property tax appeals can be greatly assisted by on-line commercial services whose records assist in the selection of comparables and in meeting other requirement of the property tax appeal process. It is important, for example, for the sell date of a comparable to be prior to the January 1 assessment date; any comparables whose sell date was after the assessment date will be disqualified at the appeal hearing. A comparable may also be disqualified include if it sold as part of a foreclosure, short sale, inheritance or divorce transaction, donation to charity, or any other non-arm’s length transaction.

Land value tax proposals. City Councilmember Rob Johnson, who represents District 4 (in which Eastlake is located), is among those who have advocated for a land value tax. A video of Johnson making the proposal in the Oct. 2, 2015 edition of the Seattle Channel program Inside/Out (minute 24:13) is available by clicking here. A written transcript of the same comments is available by clicking here. According to Johnson, his proposal “would allow you to charge somebody based on a value of their assessed property so if you’re in a neighborhood that is assessed to be able to go to three stories and you’re in a single family home, we’re going to charge you as though you’re a two story building. That’s going to encourage more turnover in places where we want to see higher density.”

Johnson’s proposal of a land value tax would be a departure from the prevailing method of assessment that, as required by state law, is a combination of the land value and the improvements. It is the Eastlake Community Council’s understanding that, barring a change in state law and the state Constitution, Washington cities have only limited authority to impose any form of added property tax and that they have no authority to alter the basic formula. The state Constitution’s Uniformity Clause requires that all properties in the same class be taxed at the same or uniform rate. It is hoped that if Councilmember Johnson intends to seek changes in state law or the Constitution to enable a land value tax, he first will come to his constituents and ask if they think that is a good idea.

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