The Swartz Report: The Pandemic and Property Tax Values

The Pandemic and Property Tax ValuesAs we start our hearings for the 2021 tax year, a question constantly arises from both taxpayers and county appraisers…

How has the pandemic affected the value of business personal property and real estate?

The answer is both simple and complicated. If business has suffered (think hotels, movie theatres and restaurants, to name just a few) due to the pandemic, is it the business value that has diminished or does it also include a decreased value in the business equipment as well as the “sticks and bricks”? County offices are constantly asking taxpayers to show market sales to support the claim the pandemic has had a detrimental effect on real estate. Business owners aren’t willing to sell their assets during this time, arguing the market is too depressed. If a sale does occur, is it truly a market value transaction? In other words, exposed to the market with neither party under duress to buy or sell?

In the cases we’ve had before the local Boards, another question invariably is asked…

Did the taxpayer receive PPP money?

I’m not sure how that relates to the value of real estate or business personal property. This money is primarily intended to support the payroll of a company, again, focusing on the business side of the equation and not the tangible asset side. However, the respective Boards believe if PPP money has been received, the businesses are surviving and therefore, the value of the equipment and the real estate remains unchanged.

I see the purpose of the argument. However, many types of commercial real estate (and the associated business personal property) are directly tied to the income it can produce. Investors look at types of real estate for the income potential. Office buildings, hotels, theaters, malls, multi-family… These are all in existence because of the rents they can collect from their tenants. If the tenants fail to make rent or worse, close due to a lack of business, the real estate becomes less valuable to an investor. Granted, the investor is not looking at a snapshot in time when purchasing real estate (the investor should be looking at stabilized income over the life of the property) but the role of the assessor’s office is to value the property as it sits on a specific valuation date. In most jurisdictions, this is January 1st. As a result, we’re forced to look at the property at this “snapshot in time” and as of January 1, 2021, various sectors of the market were disproportionately disturbed.

Many counties have been proactive in their valuations.

Some have offered 20-30% reductions in value before the appeal process. However, this is not widespread, and those counties not proactively offering relief to the taxpayer can expect to see a surge in the number of appeals. Boards and State Courts or Commissions are already back logged due to the closure of the courts during the pandemic these past 15 months. Add the potential of new cases as a result of the pandemic; we may not have resolution for 2021 appeals in some jurisdictions until late 2022 or early 2023. The effects are long lasting and challenging for all sides.

We will keep representing the interests of taxpayers to ensure they’re paying their fair share.

If you have any comments or suggestions, please share by responding to the blog. You may also reach me directly at dswartz@swartzaai.com.

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