From H. LeRoy Whiteley, Jr., president of Marylanders for Fair Property Taxation:
Senator Glassman and Delegates McComas, Norman, and newly elected Szelgia have been most helpful in introducing and supporting property assessment and appeals legislation. Attacking the whole elephant of this gigantic reform matter has been unsuccessful so far. A bit by bit approach is part of the new strategy with SB 69, the right to record, being the first of the 2011 effort introduced to help the property taxpayer. Here is another item that we think merits a separate bill submission approach.
For a taxpayer to appeal an assessment they must file an appeal before they can get appropriate “comparable” data to argue their case. Basic property, but totally incomplete, information is available on line through the State website via a “Real Property Search”. The fallacy to this data search is that the information contained therein on 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, our assessor cites a nearby property as a comparable to ours. 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 we must file an appeal. Upon doing so and paying a fee, we get the public information worksheet of the 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 our property. This is ammunition for our appeal. However, suppose the comparable did not have these increased value attributes. It would then probably be truly comparable and might lead us to not appeal.
However, under the present SDAT system we have to file a written appeal and then request and pay for the worksheet. SDAT must acknowledge our request, schedule a hearing, produce the requested worksheet, write us a letter, transmit the requested data, prepare for a hearing and if we continue, conduct said hearing, analyze and evaluate our presentation, rule on its validity, render a decision, and provide us with a written response to the hearing. All of this costs SDAT and taxpayers money.
If the taxpayer were to be allowed to access any property worksheet, which worksheets are public information already in the SDAT computerized database, as they are allowed to do with the Real Property Search data, then all of the above items could be eliminated and the dollars saved by SDAT and its taxpayers.
The taxpayer would benefit by being able to access said data from the SDAT computerized database that is already in place enabling the taxpayer to make well-informed decisions and MAYBE not even file an appeal if the data shows the comparable to be in concert with their property value. Once again, we feel this is a win-win situation we have repeatedly brought to the attention of SDAT and they continually dismiss.
We urge you to introduce legislation that would place the public information of all real property worksheets on line for taxpayer usage just as the abbreviated Real Property Search information is made available.
Thank You. Roy Whiteley