Summit County, Utah (9-15-22) — Due to rising residential home prices in the State of Utah, Summit County has experienced a rapid acceleration in home values during 2022. As a general rule, where assessed values increase, the certified tax rate decreases, so that local governments do not receive a windfall from increased tax revenues. Absent a Truth-in-Taxation hearing process, local government is entitled to the same amount of tax revenues it received the previous year plus any increased tax revenues from new growth. The result of the current circumstance is a tax shift, where some property owners pay more taxes and others pay less, but as to local governments, it is revenue neutral.
The Property Tax Process
The property tax process is provided in the Utah Tax Code. It begins with the County Assessor making assessments of fair market value on all real properties within the county by May 22. Utah Code §59-2-303. The Utah Tax Code provides that the County Assessor make these assessments in two ways (Utah Code §59-2-303.1): First, the County Assessor uses a mass appraisal system, which has been approved by the Tax Commission, to make a countywide appraisal on all properties. Utah Code §59-2-303.1(2). Second, the County Assessor “complete[s] a detailed review of property characteristics for each property at least once every five years.” Utah Code §59-2-303.1(3). So long as the mass appraisal or the detailed appraisal is within the guidelines set forth in the Utah Tax Code and the Tax Commission’s Rules and Standards of Practice, such appraisal will satisfy the Utah Constitution’s mandate that properties be “assessed at a uniform and equal rate in proportion to its fair market value.” Utah Constitution, Article XIII, Section 2(1).
The County Assessor creates the Assessment Roll which indicates the fair market value for each property within the county and files it with the County Auditor. Utah Code §59-2-311. The County Auditor sends the Assessment Roll to the Tax Commission by June 8. Utah Code §59-2-313; 322. Thereafter, the Tax Commission conducts its audit of the Assessment Roll. If the Tax Commission finds that the Assessment Roll is in error, it issues a Corrective Action to the County Assessor. Utah Code §59-2-303.1(4). The County Council has no statutory authority to issue a Corrective Action.
The County Auditor compiles tax rates for each taxing entity and submits them to the County Council who certifies the tax rates by June 22. Utah Code §59-2-909; 912. The County Auditor sends out tax notices to property owners who have until September 15 to file an appeal of their assessed value to the County Council, acting as the Board of Equalization. Utah Code §59-2-1004(3).
The Board of Equalization or the Tax Commission may make a “change to the . . . Assessment Roll and . . . adopted tax rate” no later than September 15. Utah Code §59-2-921. There is no statutory authority for either the County Council or the Board of Equalization to reject the Assessment Roll. According to the County Attorney, changes to the Assessment Roll and adopted tax rate must be based upon demonstrated errors.
On November 1, the County Auditor sends an updated Assessment Roll, based upon the Board of Equalization appeal process, to the County Treasurer. Utah Code §59-2-326. Property taxes are due on or before November 30. Utah Code §59-2-1331.
Concerned citizens have approached the County Council and requested that it reject the Assessment Roll on the grounds that it is inaccurate. As noted, neither the County Council, nor the Board of Equalization, have statutory authority to reject the Assessment Roll. Rather, the Board of Equalization has statutory authority to “change” the Assessment Roll upon evidence of error in the assessment of specific properties. The Tax Commission did not issue a Corrective Action to the County Assessor for tax year 2022. Further, the Tax Commission has indicated to the County Council that it reviewed Summit County’s 2022 Assessment Roll and found it to be in compliance with the Utah Tax Code and the Tax Commission’s Rules and Standards of Practice. Without evidence of specific assessment errors pertaining to and corrective fair market values of specific properties, the County Council is without a substantial legal basis to make a “change” to the 2022 Assessment Roll.