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Marion County assessor bracing for more tax appeals

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The huge backlog of appeals from Marion County homeowners challenging their property tax bills is about to get even bigger.

County homeowners who received assessment notices Dec. 14 have until Monday to file an appeal, and the Marion County assessor’s office is bracing for the onslaught.

The office already has 27,000 appeals outstanding from as far back as 2008 and is expecting at least 10,000 more from the 2012 assessment, adding to the logjam that has vexed the office for years.

“Marion County will never have zero appeals,” Assessor Joseph O’Connor said. “That’s like saying the courts will have no cases. The way the law is set up makes it impossible.”

The assessor’s office has seen its number of appeals grow since 2006, when all 360,000 parcels of land were reassessed under orders from the state.

Property tax bills spiked following statewide reassessment in the summer of 2007 and sparked large public protests. As a result, then-Gov. Mitch Daniels ordered another assessment the following year of all Marion County properties. Those assessements started a backlog that the assessor’s office has yet to dig out of.

The assessor’s office received a record 22,000 appeals of the 2006 reassessment, O’Connor said. The number grew to as high as 32,000 in the following years before dropping to the current 27,000.

O’Connor has set a goal to resolve previous appeals by the end of this year.

If he’s successful, that would leave only the appeals due Monday from the 2012 assessment.

“We’re expecting a lot of appeals,” O’Connor said. “There’s a lot of confusion, being that it’s a reassessment year.”

The assessor’s office is expecting more appeals that normal from the 2012 assessment because it’s the first “true” assessment county assessors have conducted since 2002. That’s when the state switched from a “true-tax value” to a “market-based” assessment.

Assessments were typically conducted every 10 years. But following the 2002 switch, the legislature ordered assessors beginning in 2006 to update property values every year using the trending method to more accurately reflect values until another assessment could be conducted in 2012.

Trending bases property tax amounts on prices that properties in a particular area have sold for during the past two years to estimate values rather than using a formula to set a value based on different features of a property.

But when property is so seldom truly reassessed, the assessment changes that occur in the meantime can be substantial and prompt more appeals.

“We have cases pending as far back as 2006, so [the county's backlog] is not surprising,” said Stephen Paul, a partner at the Faegre Baker Daniels LLP law firm.

The state legislature now has mandated assessments be done every four years instead of 10, making it even harder for the Marion County assessor’s office to work through the mountain of appeals.

Further, filing an appeal has been simplified in recent years as homeowners no longer are required to fill out a complicated form to protest their bill. They simply need to express their wish to file an appeal in writing.

That’s prompted O’Connor to encourage people “to call in before just filing a blind appeal” hoping that some disagreements may get settled without an official filing.
 

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  • Confused.
    Angie, Which office did you visit and they adjusted on the spot. The office I visited just took my form and appraisal and tossed it in a huge stack.
  • Appealing Too Low
    I've actually appealed when the value is too low. At any point, I could find another good purchase and so often than not, a tool used in real estate negotiations is looking at the Assesed Value of the house in relation to the asking price. Since we have supposedly moved to "market value" based system, then its in your interest to keep that AV as close as to what other similar houses or same condos are selling for. To get a HELOC to avoid PMI, I hope you did some cost analysis there. If you're house is valued high as it should, then maybe it would be worth it to knock PMI off, but I know my PMI is not much a month to make me want to take out a HELOC to wipe out the equity and then have another economic downturn and have nothing left in my house. But thats just me. HELOCs are a good portion of the reason the housing market went south in 08/09.
  • Go in person
    Go in person and bring your independent appraisal. I also refinanced in 2012. I went to the office with appraisal in hand, and they readjusted my tax to that amount on the spot. Won't happen that quick for everyone, but if you have solid proof of your house's value from a recent date, they are fixing the inflated assessments.
    • Thanks PJ
      Thanks for the info PJ. I had my realtor run sales figures and price per sq foot for all my properties and that is what I turned in thinking the avge for all properties in area would be the best measure. Low and behold when I had her run it again for same areas so I can appeal price per sq ft went down but assessments went up for all of them. I wonder if assessor knows we are in a recession and property values across America have gone down except in Indiana in his opinion. And I think you have hit on the perfect solution overtaxed.
    • Question
      Do you have to file in person or through the mail? They assessed my house for $70K more than an independant assossor did 6 months ago for a refi. i had to take out a HELOC to avoid PMI.
      • Inefficient
        "Justice delayed is justice denied" And so it is when an inefficient government office forces the overpayment of tax. There is no incentive for the bureaucrats to efficently handle the appeals. If they lack resources, why would the county provide more, for in doing so they will receive less revenue? Just kick the can down the road. Meanwhile, those with the wrong assessment pay too much tax. The legislature should provide a remedy. Perhaps assessment appeals not heard within a year receive an automatic % reduction? Without punitive measures, this problem will never be solved and the taxpayer suffers-as usual.
      • and evermore shall be so
        More than a few of the appeals are going to be spurred by the continuing trend of under-assessed properties, which, nder the current system, are going to take a couple of decades to correct, since no one ever appeals being assessed to little. The neighbor, however, who's been in the house next door and knows it's worth a lot more than its AV, gets angry and appeals his assessment.
      • Assessors Office
        The backlog in Marion County has everything to do with the people that work at the assessors office. I work on a number of commercial properties in the area and the county officials are as inept as they come. They are quarrelsome at best and often do things that are nothing short of unethical at hearings to protect their tax base. Admittedly, the system is somewhat to blame with the shift from a cost based system to a market based system but that is no excuse. The initial mass assessment is done via cost tables however cost is almost always well above market value in today's economy so people and companies appeal. Instead of being forthright and cooperative Marion co assessment officials are argumentative and unwilling to shift opinion even in the face of overwhelming data. The new laws have not made their job easy but their ineptitude has only compounded the problem and its the taxpayers footing the bill and seeing local budgets getting torn apart.
      • Marion Co Assessor
        The backlog in Marion County has everything to do with the people that work at the assessors office. I work on a number of commercial properties in the area and the county officials are as inept as they come. They are quarrelsome at best and often do things that are nothing short of unethical at hearings to protect their tax base. Admittedly, the system is somewhat to blame with the shift from a cost based system to a market based system but that is no excuse. The initial mass assessment is done via cost tables however cost is almost always well above market value in today's economy so people and companies appeal. Instead of being forthright and cooperative Marion co assessment officials are argumentative and unwilling to shift opinion even in the face of overwhelming data. The new laws have not made their job easy but their ineptitude has only compounded the problem and its the taxpayers footing the bill and seeing local budgets getting torn apart.
      • RE: Irvingtonguy
        After you win an appeal, yes, you are entitled to all overpayment from that time with a 4% interest on top of it. The treasurer should send you the form automatically to fill out, but it's best to call them and request it. Otherwise, you'll likely never see it. As far as appealing each year, yes, you must appeal for every year the value is incorrect. Unfortunately, this is costing the tax payers a lot of money, paying a 4% premium on the grossly over-assessed properties!
        • Illogical System
          If the assessment process was fair and based on true market data such as the last known sales price and could only ever adjust at a maximum percent year over year, then it would seldom if ever run the risk of taxing someone out of their home. The current tax assessment process relies on subjective information and an has created major inconsistencies that the only way to right the system is to tax fair amounts that would effectively tax people out of the homes they have built and neighborhoods they have worked hard to improve. If a fair and objective system could be implemented, the tax woes of the city could be substantially mitigated and we may actually be able to reap the services we expect our city to provide. There are blocks in Indianapolis where there are multiples of the exact same house, built within a few months of one another but range in assessments from under $100,000 to well over $200,000 for the same house. If the reassessment was fair, inconsistencies such as these would not occur. The unfortunate reality is that these inconsistencies do exist, assessments in this manner do tax people out their homes, and this system penalizes you for working hard to improve your neighborhood and this city. Such an impact should be considered unacceptable by every single tax payer and every city official. Will the city officials take responsibility and act to fix this problem in a way that actually works? Or will they keep dropping the ball and disenfrancising their revenue base?
        • What Happens After the appeal
          So say you win your appeal from 2007 or 2008, does the state go back and credit you the money from what you have overpaid. Do I still need to appeal just if I won my first appeal from 2007. I have a rental property and the "assessed" value tripled from 2006 all the way up to $107K. Since it is a rental I now have to pay 2% of the assessed value in property taxes. Hard to make any money on rental property when your barely covering taxes, insurance and HOA fees. Its really not worth the effort.

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