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The Most Dangerous Post in Government

Monopolyhouse590x591pre.While one might be excused for believing that the most powerful (thus, potentially dangerous) political position is the Chief Elected Official, I've come to believe that the individual with an unchecked power to put businesses out of business is the Assessor.

In some locales, the Assessor is appointed; in others, elected. In some, they require educational certification; in others, no experience is required. And yet, these individuals have the power to assign property values that result in property taxes being levied.

Over the past year, I have seen a number of blow-ups across the United States concerning Assessors that have, after years of ignoring their hotel community, come swooping in to re-assess the sector. In one case, a hotel was faced with a $1 million increase in property tax due. In another town, the lead hotel reported that his property tax had jumped 160% in one year.

The excuse from the Assessor's office in the first example was that they hadn't increased assessments during the recession in an attempt to "help" the hotel community during the downturn. Of course, the resulting unexpected $1 million invoice isn't exactly helping anyone (except the City).

Not that this blog is a platform for tax law reform...but, how does a single office have the authority to place a business on the precipice of solvency when its actions are neither easily anticipated nor fair?

I'm not saying that the hotels in question shouldn't be paying higher property taxes. If the land upon which they sit increases in value (based primarily on their own success), property taxes should go up. Just not by a million bucks (or 160%) in one year.

If an Assessor has the right to make up for missed increases in one fell swoop, the business should have the right to gradually achieve the new tax amount over the same number of years since the last assessment.

Just sayin'....

Bill Geist

Bill GeistBill Geist

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