In February I wrote about a change in the Arizona property tax rules applicable to houses. Along with tightening up the requirements for a house to qualify for the residential property tax rebate, new reporting rules were adopted. Under those rules, all county assessors in Arizona were required to send a declaration form to each homeowner, and each homeowner was required to declare, each even-numbered year, whether or not their house was the primary residence of the owner or a relative of the owner.
It seems that the reporting rule has proved to be both unpopular with property owners and difficult for the county assessors to implement. So this year the Arizona Legislature, in House Bill 2486, scaled back the reporting rule. Under the revised rule the county assessors are required to send the declaration form to a homeowner only if “the assessor has reason to believe” that a house “is not used as the owner’s primary residence or is being rented as a qualifying family member residence….”
And what would give the county assessor reason to believe that a house is not used as the primary residence of the owner or a family member? I’m not sure, but the legislature, as they often do, gave a helpful list of situations in which the county assessors are required to send the reporting form to the homeowner:
1. The owner has a mailing address outside the county in which the property is located.
2. The owner has a mailing address, other than a post office box, that is different than the situs address of the property.
3. The owner has the same mailing address listed for more than one parcel of class three property in this state.
4. The owner appears to be a business entity.
So if you want to hide from the county assessor, I guess you could take advantage of the provision for a post office box by opening separate boxes to serve as the mailing addresses for each of your houses (but the box for each house would have to be in the same county where the house is located).
But seriously, what apparently bothered people about the reporting requirement was that there would be an extra form that would have to be sent to, and returned by, every homeowner in Arizona, every other year. My guess is that it will be easier and cheaper for the county assessors to install computer software to catch the mailing address criteria listed above than it was for them to process a completed declaration form sent in by just about every homeowner in the county.
The legislature also deleted a provision that allowed the rebate for houses that were not rented for more than three months in the preceding twelve months and that will not be rented for more than three months in the coming twelve months. This means that a house will qualify for the rebate only if it is used as the primary residence of the owner, or is rented to a relative of the owner and is the relative’s primary residence. All other houses will not qualify for the rebate. The difference can be up to $600 annually.
LEGISLATION ABOUT FEDERAL LAND PROVIDES A LEARNING
OPPORTUNITY ABOUT THE CONSTITUTION
Remember what I said recently about the silly season at the Arizona Legislature? I don’t want to be too negative about their efforts (and such negativity doesn’t accomplish anything anyway) but I really don’t understand this one. The legislature passed a bill that says this:
A. On or before December 31, 2014, the United States shall extinguish title to all public lands in and transfer title to this state.
B. If this state sells public lands to which the state received title under subsection A of this section, this state shall:
1. Retain five per cent of the net proceeds of the sale for deposit in the permanent state school fund.
2. Pay ninety-five per cent of the net proceeds of the sale to the United States.
C. Beginning in 2015, all public lands to which the United States has not extinguished and transferred title to this state under subsection A of this section are subject to assessment, levy and taxation pursuant to title 42, chapters 11 through 18.
I can’t figure out what they thought they would accomplish with this. I also can’t believe they thought it would actually work.
Haven’t the legislators who advanced this legislation ever heard of the supremacy clause? It’s Article VI, clause 2: “This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the Land; and the judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any thing in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.”
Or didn’t their lawyers explain to them that Article IV, Section 3, says “Congress shall have power to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the Territory or other Property belonging to the United States,” meaning that it takes an act of Congress to authorize a transfer of property owned by the United States? Did the Arizona Legislature really think they could force the sale of federal property, or tax it?
I can’t believe that our legislators are really that uninformed, or that they weren’t advised that this would never work. I guess they were trying to make a political statement, but I’m not sure what that statement was.
Fortunately, Governor Brewer vetoed the bill, so we will be spared the spectacle of someone at the capitol trying to implement this legislation. I still can’t believe anyone actually thought that could happen, anyway. Don’t they have anything better to do?
QUOTE OF THE MONTH
“Everyone, in some small acred sanctuary of the self, is nuts.”
Leo Rosten, author (1908-1997)