Property Tax Appeals Hold Government Accountable
I was representing a client in a property tax case in court the other day, and I looked behind me to see an almost empty courtroom. I thought to myself, “Why don’t we get bigger crowds for property tax trials?” Admittedly, the expert testimony on the three approaches to value as applied to my client’s property was fairly dry. And I understand that most people, including judges, would rather be doing something other than sitting through a trial on the value of a commercial building. Property tax cases generally deal with principles of economics, the strength or weakness of markets, recent sales of similar properties as well as the cost of certain features of the property. These cases generally provide less drama and touch on fewer subjects of interest to most people than criminal trials or even personal injury trials.
While on the surface these cases may seem like nothing more than a dispute about the value of a property, at their core these cases are about holding a government to a standard of fairness to protect our fundamental right to own property. Think about it: In the property tax system, the government determines the value of your property, and therefore, the amount of money that you must pay to fund the government. An oppressive government could essentially confiscate property by abusing this power. As the great jurist Chief Justice John Marshall once wrote, “The power to tax, is the power to destroy.” While, no one is suggesting that our state and local governments are intentionally oppressive, the issue is whether the manner in which the taxes were imposed satisfy the constitutional standards that prevent our governments from becoming oppressive.
So the testimony from experts may seem dry, and the arguments made by lawyers may lack the drama of some high-profile criminal trials, but property tax cases are about putting the principles of fairness in taxation set forth in state constitutions to practice. Actually, holding the government to these standards so that each taxpayer pays a fair share of taxes and no more. For some people this may not interest them. For me, nothing is more interesting or more important than holding the government accountable to treat its taxpayers fairly.
Allobar Strategies provides professional assistance in evaluating the fairness of property tax assessments. If you would like assistance with an evaluation of your property tax, please visit Allobar Strategies or call (603) 333-2211.
By: John F. Hayes, Esq., General Counsel to Allobar Strategies.