Tax Law Special Report: February 2014
Don’t Listen To The Assessor, You Can Still Appeal For Property Tax Relief If Your Property Is Incorrectly Valued

In last month’s Report, I wrote about the notice of value that Arizona property owners receive from their county Assessor every year about this time.  It’s the one that tells you the valuation of your property for purposes of computing your property taxes.

This year it seems like the Pima County Assessor sent them out earlier than usual.  If you own property in Pima County, your notice probably arrived about the same time as my January Report.

Let me hasten to admit that my Report was inaccurate on one (non-substantive) fact.  I forgot that the Pima County Assessor doesn’t send the notice of value on a postcard anymore.  It’s on a regular size sheet of paper in a regular letter size envelope now. It still contains the same information. It’s probably easier for the Assessor to produce it on a regular sheet of paper and mail it in a window envelope.

The thing that really caught my attention, however, is that the notice of value from the Pima County Assessor also contained this somewhat bewildering statement on a card inserted in the envelope:

In 2012 the voters of Arizona passed Proposition 117 amending Article IX of the Arizona Constitution relating to property taxes. The constitution [sic] amendment establishes that beginning with the 2015 Tax Year, the limited property value is to be the basis for determining all property taxes. Please note the limited property value is a statutorily set value and cannot be appealed. Only the full cash value may be appealed.

The text of the notice itself also included the following statement: “Only the 2015 FCV (Full Cash Value) may be appealed, the LIMITED VALUE may not be appealed.”

What does that mean?  Almost a month after I first read it, I’m still not sure. The limited property value has always been a statutorily set value.  If you appealed the valuation of your property in the past, you appealed the full cash value, not the limited value. The statute that provides for an appeal of a property’s full cash value didn’t change. What is the Assessor talking about?

The constitutional amendment that is mentioned in the notice of value did two things.  It (1) did away with the use of the full cash value for computing certain taxes (all of the various property taxes are now figured based on your property’s limited value), and (2) changed the formula that limits the amount that the limited value can increase from one year to the next.  As far as I can tell, that’s all it did.

Two important rules concerning the limited value did not change. The limited value for each year is five percent more than the limited value for the previous year. The limited value for the current year cannot exceed the full cash value.

So if you think the full cash value of your property is too high, you appeal that valuation.  If you are successful, the Assessor has to reduce the full cash value.  Since the limited value can’t be greater than the full cash value, if the full cash value is reduced to less than the limited value, the limited value has to go down to the same amount as the full cash value.

But the Assessor’s notice seems to be saying that because (1) all property taxes are now based on the limited value, and (2) the limited value is statutorily set and can’t be appealed, there is no relief to be had by appealing the full cash value.  In other words, don’t bother with an appeal!  Is that really what the Assessor meant?

I think what the change in the law does is this: to get any relief, you have to get your property’s full cash value reduced enough to lower the limited value.  In other words, don’t bother to appeal unless you can justify a reduction of the full cash value to a figure that is lower than the limited value.



To some, this may sound too harsh. To others, it’s no surprise at all. As for me, I just wish it wasn’t so. Whichever angle you view it from, however, I think the conclusion is now inescapable: the IRS cannot be trusted in their handling of the personal information they collect from taxpayers.

Why do I say that? Because it has now been documented that supervisory level and other IRS employees used personal (non-government) email accounts to send confidential taxpayer information.  This is, as I understand it, a direct violation of federal law, as well as IRS Policy.

Why is that a big deal? Emails sent through government accounts are automatically archived.  This makes it possible to track and reconstruct the handling of taxpayer information.  Sending such information through non-government email avoids those internal controls.

And that’s exactly the point. Why would IRS employees send taxpayer information in private emails if not to evade discovery of what they were doing?

The source of this information is a letter from the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform to the Principal Deputy Commissioner of the IRS dated September 30, 2013.  You can read it for yourself on the internet at:….pdf


                   That which we persist in doing becomes easier for us to do; not that the nature of the thing itself is changed, but that our power to do is increased.

   Ralph Waldo Emerson (American Poet, Lecturer and Essayist, 1803-1882)