A tax watchdog group is advising landowners in certain Utah counties to scrutinize their tax notices this year to see if their property is being assessed at a fair dollar level.
"Almost all counties appear to be closely aligned in their countywide average property tax assessments with where the market indicates they should be," said Howard Stephenson, assistant director of the Utah Taxpayers Association.The UTA's assessment study is based on property valuation information from the state Tax Commission obtained from actual property sales.
But Stephenson warns that while average assessments are about where they should be, certain specific types of property in some counties have at times been greatly over- or under-valued, meaning their owners could be paying too much or too little tax.
Property is divided and taxed according to whether it is primary residential, commercial, vacant or secondary residential.
Primary residential property is assessed at 60 percent of its fair market value. Locally assessed commercial property, secondary residential and vacant land is assessed at 80 percent of full value and state-assessed property such as utilities and railroads are assessed at 100 percent of market value.
As an example, Stephenson said, homeowners in Wayne County may be paying about 23 percent more in property taxes than they should because values of sold property indicate assessments on primary residential property are 123 percent of the statutory level.
Similar property-sale indicators show that Summit County landowners are being assessed about 88 percent of what they should be on their primary residential properties, but at 115 percent of what they should be paying on their commercial properties.
Beaver County commercial property owners are getting a steal with their assessments being about 66 percent of what the county could be taxing them. However, commercial property owners in Rich County are paying taxes based on assessments of 251 percent of what the market indicates they should be, the watchdog group said.
"The one warning we would give to taxpayers would be to those in counties that are above the 100 percent of their statutory assessment level," Stephenson said.
"People in those counties ought to look very closely at their assessment notices when they're mailed out and appeal them if they have evidence to suggest that their property is over-assessed," he said.
"The possibility of over-assessment is especially prevalent in today's real estate market when values are declining," he added.