What Every Elected Official Needs to Know About Assessing
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What Every Elected Official Needs to Know About Assessing

December 2015

Township assessors are responsible for the evaluation of all real and personal property within a township. Assessors are also responsible for making an inventory and identifying all parcels of property (e.g. parcel identification numbers), which then must be uniformly and equitably assessed according to Michigan's Property Tax Laws. Assessors are involved in other aspects of assessing property as well, including determining whether a property tax exemption applies or defending a challenge or appeal to a property's taxable or assessed value.

Every elected official should be familiar with all operations within their township. To be sure that your assessor is completing all necessary tasks and following the correct guidelines, refer to this general list of common practices for assessors.

    1. Communication

    Township assessors communicate with the public. It is an assessor's responsibility to communicate all expectations and guidelines to members of the community so that there is no confusion at the time of the evaluation. Established oversight and expectations are necessary for ensuring positive interactions with taxpayers.

    2. Tax Appeal Procedures

    Board members should be aware of tax appeal procedures so they can stay informed about pending appeals and provide the appropriate direction with respect to litigation or settlements. The Board of Review and township assessors have no authority to adjust the amount of property tax; the Board's sole purpose is to hear the appeals of the value of the property, not how much tax will be owed.

    3. Uniform Taxation

    The Michigan Constitution requires the uniform taxation of real and personal property not exempt by law. It further requires the determination of true cash value and the proportion of true cash value at which property should be uniformly assessed. This assessment cannot exceed 50% of the property's true cash value. In addition, the taxable value of property shall not increase each year by more than the consumer price index (a measure of inflation), or by 5 percent, whichever is less.

    4. Assessing Responsibilities

    Elected officials should all have a basic understanding of assessing responsibilities, procedures, and property valuation techniques. Property tax revenues allow townships to provide important public services, such as the maintenance of public roads and parks, public schools, government administration and much more; as a result, it is important that assessors are performing to the standards outlined upon hire.

    5. Property Assessments

    Townships are responsible for establishing fair, accurate, and uniform property assessments for all property located within a township. Townships are also responsible for collecting property taxes and defending property tax appeals at the Michigan Tax Tribunal. Assessors and township officials should also be aware of the different assessment procedures for different types of properties, such as personal, commercial, industrial, and agricultural.

    6. Property Value

    Pursuant to Michigan's General Property Tax laws, a township assesses the true cash value, assessed value and taxable value of every parcel of real and personal property within that township. Township Assessors are responsible for the valuation of each parcel, preparing assessment rolls, and evaluating new construction and improvements to property within a township.

    7. Taxable Status

    The value and taxable status of each parcel of property in a township is determined as of December 31st of the previous calendar year. In order to make sure assessment records are complete and accurate, periodic property inspections are required by the State Tax Commission.

    8. Mass Appraisal Techniques

    Since individually appraising each parcel in a township would be overly burdensome, mass appraisal techniques are utilized to assess property. When using these techniques, assessors must follow the State Tax Commission's property tax assessment manual. Once a property is the subject of an appeal in the Michigan Tax Tribunal, however, individual appraisal methods are preferred to determine true cash value.

    9. True Cash Value, Assessed Value, and Taxable Value

    True cash value, assessed value, and taxable value (which has no relation to true cash value) are fairly complicated terms and concepts with specific statutory definitions. Understanding these terms and concepts is vital to understanding the role of a township assessor.

For more information about these guidelines, be sure to attend the 2016 Michigan Township Association Conference & Expo, where Ross K. Bower II, and others, will be discussing "What Every Elected Official Needs to Know about Assessing" on Wednesday, January 20 from 1:00pm to 2:15pm.

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