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Will Utah shift more big-business tax bills to little guy?
Property tax » Counties warn it could happen if state limits their role in challenging valuations.

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Crapo compared it to a homeowner who decides not to appeal the tax assessment on his house, but then the valuation is challenged by other government entities, from school districts to cities.

"You wouldn’t be very happy about that. Well, that’s the same type of problem we have right now being addressed in the centrally assessed area," he said.

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"It appears to be happening more often during the last number of years. Why? I’m not sure," Crapo told the legislative committee. "It could be because there’s increased demand, if you will, or pressure for revenue at counties and localities so everyone needs to make sure they’re able to fund their budgets."

But, as Sen. Howard Stephenson, R-Draper, a committee member and head of the Utah Taxpayers Association, pointed out, property tax revenues for counties, school districts and cities don’t take the hit from lowered valuations for multi-county businesses. The burden simply shifts to the larger pool of property owners.

Stephenson — whose association is funded by primarily by businesses, including some of the big centrally assessed companies — asked for more data on how often the appeals are being filed, the success rate and other information.

But he indicated he is sympathetic to the idea of limiting appeals.

"The notion that there’s somebody other than the county assessor — or the Tax Commission in the case of centrally assessed properties — valuing my property really is a troubling thought."

Sen. Curt Bramble, a committee member and CPA who asked to put the issue on the committee agenda, believes some fixes are in order.

"When a taxpayer settles with [the Tax Commission], that’s where it should be resolved. If someone brings litigation, that litigation ought to be between the entity that has the assessing authority and the taxpayer," the Provo Republican said. "Any other party, if they have standing for an amicus brief or friend of the court or whatever, could let their opinions be brought forward that way rather than initiating litigation and having this repetitive cycle — just this ongoing litigation."

Another committee member, Sen. John Valentine, R-Orem, an attorney with expertise in tax matters, also seemed open to the concerns of centrally assessed taxpayers. He appeared particularly troubled that counties often turn over the decision of tax appeals to a committee of the Utah Association of Counties outside of the public view and sometimes without consultation with county executives.

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"I find that incredible," he said.


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