Incline group says tax-appeal process in Washoe unfair

A group of Incline Village property owners complained Wednesday that Washoe County doesn't treat them fairly in handling property tax appeals.

They told Taxation Director Chuck Chinnock most of their complaints appear to have been resolved this year but that they would still like regulations changed to make sure the situation doesn't change again.

Les Barta of the Village League to Save Incline Assets said the big problem is getting the county board of equalization to consider their arguments and to provide petitioners with data explaining how the county assessor decided what their tax bill should be.

Incline residents have been facing and protesting huge increases in their property taxes.

He said taxpayers should have access to "all data used to determine taxable value and all procedures used to determine taxable value."

And he said they should get that information at least three days before the hearing, not the day of the hearing.

"There have been times when a petitioner didn't get that information from the assessor until he was approaching the podium to make his appeal," said Barta.

He said that puts an unreasonable burden on anyone trying to appeal their tax bill.

Representatives from the Washoe Board of Equalization, including Gary Schmidt, said some of those things have been fixed and the county is trying to get that information to anyone filing an appeal ahead of time. He said he too was denied that information in the past and understands the burden it puts on petitioners.

Chinnock said some of Barta's suggestions focus more on procedure than substance.

"We're in court on issues where we argue about procedures and principles and we never get around to value," he said. "What it comes down to is, is it at a proper taxable value."

Barta said those more technical issues become important when the taxpayer is trying to bring in other evidence to show his tax bill should be lower and the county board refuses to consider it.

Rob Helling of Clark County backed up that argument saying his county's board allows petitioners to bring in any evidence they believe supports their case. He also said Clark County tries to provide data to each petitioner three days before their appeal hearing.

Chinnock agreed it's not proper to limit the argument to whether taxable value exceeds market value. He also agreed it is important the taxpayer have access to data explaining how his new property tax bill was arrived at before the meeting. But he said they may not be getting that information ahead of time because it doesn't exist until the appeal is filed and the assessor looks specifically at the property in question. He said until they are appealed, property tax values are worked out by a formula, not one at a time.

Afterward, Chinnock said they will work on language to ensure that people appealing their tax bill get the necessary information before the hearing and to clarify that property owners have the right to bring in the evidence they believe supports their case.

n Contact reporter Geoff Dornan at or 687-8750.


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