From Roy Whiteley, Founder, Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
HB 789 PROPERTY TAX — ASSESSMENT WORKSHEETS — INTERNET ACCESS
HEARING DATE FEBRUARY 28, 2012
Short notice – but great news?? This gives us a second chance?? We apologize for not knowing of this sooner. Delegate Susan McComas just informed us that she has introduced HB 789, a bill similar but not cross filed to the recently failed SB215 on the same subject that was introduced by Senator Barry Glassman. This bill will give us taxpayers Internet access to residential worksheets much like the Real Property Data Search sheets already available on the Department of Assessment and Taxation website. A hearing on the bill is scheduled for February 28 at 1:00 PM before the Senate Budget and Taxation Committee.
The taxpayer can only get appropriate State “comparable” data to argue a case after filing an appeal. SDAT Director Robert Young testified that this requirement of having to file an appeal is to protect our privacy; yet SDAT has apparently sold 13 million of our records to commercial enterprises and we can purchase them online for $115 to $225 per State jurisdiction. So much for protecting our privacy?? Look it up at www. Specprint.com. Young also testified that it would cost $200,000 to develop a searchable data base. Ask him how his staff searches their over 13 million records if they don’t already have search capabilities identical to their already in place “Real Property Search” on line data base. Basic property, but totally incomplete, information is available on line through the State website “Real Property Search”. The fallacy to this data search is that the State information contained therein for any property the State has given or the taxpayer has identified as comparable, does not contain the total picture or details of the components of the comparable property. As an example, an assessor cites a nearby non-subdivision property built by the same builder as a comparable to the subject. The assessed values are identical. The Real Property Search data information is very similar — same size dwelling, same construction, equal lot area, same age, etc. However, to see the details of the comparable, the taxpayer is first required to file an appeal. Upon doing so and paying a fee, the taxpayer can then get the public information worksheet of any comparable. It reveals that the State’s so-called comparable has two decks, an enclosed porch, a garage and air conditioning valued at $55,000 for these amenities not present in the subject property. This is ammunition for an appeal. However, suppose the comparable did not have these increased value attributes. It would then probably be truly comparable and might lead a prudent taxpayer not to appeal.
However, under the present SDAT system the taxpayer must file a written appeal and then request and pay for the worksheet. SDAT must acknowledge the request, schedule a hearing, produce the requested worksheet, write a letter, transmit the requested data, prepare for a hearing and if the taxpayer proceeds, conduct said hearing, analyze and evaluate the taxpayer’s presentation, rule on its validity, render a decision, and provide the taxpayer with a written response to the hearing. Each of these actions is usually separate entities since SDAT seems incapable of combining these scheduling and transmissions activities in an efficient manner. This inefficiency promotes delays, backlogs and unnecessary costs to the State and its taxpayers.
If the taxpayer is allowed access to any property worksheet, which worksheets are public information already in the SDAT computerized database, as the taxpayers is allowed to do with the Real Property Search data, then all of the aforementioned action items could be eliminated and the wasteful costs saved by SDAT and its taxpayers. The taxpayer would benefit by being able to access said data from the SDAT computerized database that is accessible through internet providers thus enabling the taxpayer to make well-informed decisions and PERHAPS even not filing an appeal if the data shows the comparable to be in concert with their property value. This is a win-win situation we have repeatedly brought to the attention of SDAT and they continually fight and dismiss.
We urge everyone to phone, write or e-mail the Ways and Means Chair Hixson and Vice Chair Rosenberg and committee members as well as your respective legislators asking for support of this bill. Committee e-mail addresses are in this format followed by @house.state.md.us
Remember Nothing Happens, Unless We Make It Happen??
Thank You, Roy Whiteley, Founder