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Dear Friends and Neighbors,
Let's talk about everyone's favorite topic: property taxes! You'll be receiving your property tax statements in the mail from your county treasurer this month, so I thought now would be a good time to discuss the issue.
Some of you have contacted me about your property tax problems. For example, in December of last year there were letters to the editor expressing concern about how the Snohomish County Treasurer cancelled its electronic payment system for property taxes and not all taxpayers were aware of the change. These people thought their bank accounts would be automatically charged for their property taxes. When this didn't happen, some of them had to endure accumulated interest and penalties.
Last May, I also heard from a constituent who accidentally paid $20 short on a property tax bill. She received her check back with a penalty. In 25 years, she had never missed or accidentally paid the wrong amount for a property tax bill.
These are fundamentally unfair situations. When honest, hard-working taxpayers try to do the right thing, they should not be punished financially. Any level of government, including local government, should be flexible enough to handle these situations and do the right thing.
House Bill 2309, which I support, would begin to provide some fairness and flexibility in the payment of property taxes. One aspect of the legislation is that it would allow a county treasurer to waive interest and penalties on delinquent property taxes when a taxpayer paid the incorrect amount of tax due to inadvertent error. This bill received a public hearing on January 23, but has not moved out of the House Finance Committee. You can watch the hearing here.
Property tax Q&A
With the help of the state Department of Revenue's website, I've created a short Q&A below that might answer some of your questions on property taxes.
How is my property tax bill determined?
- Your property tax bill is based on the assessed value of your property and the tax levy rate. The county assessor determines market value of all properties in the district as of January 1 and comes up with a taxable value which takes into account any exemptions or alternative valuation schedules. Taxing districts set their budget amounts (levies) and the assessor calculates the necessary tax rate. Dividing your property value by $1,000 and multiplying that by the tax rate determines your total property tax bill, which is collected by the county treasurer in the following year after the assessment.
What factors determine property tax rates?
- Many factors determine property tax rates, the amount of property tax due on comparable properties will vary throughout a county. The three main factors that determine the tax rate include: various combinations of taxing districts in different areas of the county; budget amounts for each taxing district; and voter-approved special levies and bonds.
What if I do not agree with the assessed value of my property?
- Contact your county assessor's office. For a list of county assessors and treasurer websites, click here. If you are unable to reach an agreement, you may file an appeal with the county board of equalization in the county where the property is located.
Do I qualify for a property tax exemption, deferral or assistance of any kind?
- Find out here.
How is my property tax money used?
- Below is a pie chart of the breakdown of how property taxes are used. This chart is from the 2010 tax year. These figures may be higher or lower depending on where you live. Source: Homeowner's Guide to Property Tax.
I taped a three-minute video update in my office on January 23. I talked about the big issues this legislative session and how you can become involved in the process. You can find it here. As always, I welcome your feedback!
Final reminder: Telephone town hall this Thursday
Just one last reminder: I will be hosting a telephone town hall meeting with Rep. Elizabeth Scott this Thursday, February 6, from 6:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. The event will offer you an opportunity to ask us questions or just listen in on the community conversation. All you have do is call 1-800-759-5313. We hope to hear from you!
In your service,
426A Legislative Building | P.O. Box 40600 | Olympia, WA 98504-0600
(360) 786-7967 | Toll-free: (800) 562-6000