In Utah, residential property taxes are a "holy cow," so when the Legislature dealt with the property tax issue in the recent session a special effort was made to keep home taxes at nearly the same level, according to a legislator and a state tax commissioner.

That meant that when the Legislature passed HB397, the burden of some taxes was shifted to other taxpayers who should be prepared to pay increased taxes, according to Rep. John Valentine, R-Orem, and Tax Commissioner Roger Tew.Speaking to the Wasatch Front Economic Forum in the Red Lion Hotel last week, Valentine said the recent legislative session was difficult because of the economics caused by a Utah Supreme Court decision in favor of Amax Magnesium Corp. Amax sued because property assessed by local entities was assessed at 80 percent of value while property assessed by the state (mines and utilities) was assessed at 100 percent.

Valentine said several taxing alternatives were available, but the Legislature attempted to choose the one that had the slightest impact on those being taxed. He said some changes might have to be made to HB397 in the 1992 sessions.

Tew said one of the key points of HB397 is that effective Jan. 1, 1991, the residential property tax exemption is increased from 25 percent to 29.75 percent. On Jan. 1, 1992, that exemption will be 29.5 percent. On Jan. 1, 1992, all property required to be registered with the state will be subject to an in lieu ad valorem property tax.

The commissioner said these changes will increase the taxable value of certain categories of property and, in most counties, revenues from the fee will be greater than the property tax revenues currently received on registered property.

For example, a Beaver County resident owning a 1984 Chevrolet Celebrity in 1992 will pay $11 more than the previous year, but a Salt Lake County resident would pay $3 less. A Daggett County resident owning a 1989 Ford F-150 pickup truck in 1992 will pay $68 more than the previous year while a Davis County resident owning the same vehicle will pay only $2 more.

Tew said these fees are based on 1990 tax rates and people will have to wait for their tax notices to see exactly how they are affected.

Regarding residential property taxes, HB397 will increase the taxes statewide by 1.1 percent, while utilities and mines will be paying 7.2 percent less in taxes. The figures vary by county.