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The Board of Assessment appeals shall consist of three members serving four years each. Electors may vote for the same number of candidates as there are members to be elected to the Board at any election. Such Board shall have the powers and duties prescribed by law. The functions and responsibilities of this Board shall include the hearing of grievances regarding tax assessments, and the making of such adjustments to the Grand List as are provided for by Section 12-111(a) of the General Statutes.
RIDGEFIELD BOARD AS ASSESSMENT APPEALS
The Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA) is among the oldest, local government agencies in Connecticut. Its history dates back to the colonial period.
Created by state law, the BAA holds important powers affecting both the municipality and the taxpayer; paradoxically, they also constitute one of the lesser-known municipal agencies. Most taxpayers are aware of the office of assessor or tax collector in their communities. Few, however, know anything about the BAA until they have a disagreement about their property valuation. Board members themselves may know little about the office prior to their elections or appointments, and frequently learn about their functions and duties only after assuming office.
The BAA is an official municipal agency. It is designed to serve as an appeal body for taxpayers who believe that town or city assessors erred in the valuation of their properties or erroneously denied them exemptions. It is important to note that the BAA is not an assessing agency. It does not value taxable property as that is the function of the assessors. Its purpose is best explained by the word “review” which was formerly in the title. To review assessments, board members must have an understanding of the three approaches to value used by assessors and real estate appraisers in mass appraisal. It is a review body and as such serves independently of assessors. In most cases the BAA operates as an intermediary level between the assessors and the courts.
During a formal hearing before the BAA, aggrieved taxpayers usually present their body of evidence to either an individual board member or to the entire BAA, depending on jurisdictional preference. The individual board member, or the board as a whole, receives the evidence from the taxpayer while the taxpayer makes their case for a lower assessment. Board members may then query the taxpayer if necessary, with regard to the evidence. Once the hearing is completed the BAA, if meeting as a whole, may deliberate and vote as to whether an adjustment to the assessment is warranted. If the hearing is conducted with only an individual board member, that specific board member will present the evidence to the entire board during scheduled and noticed deliberations. The BAA will then vote as to whether an adjustment is warranted. Pursuant to Connecticut General Statute (CGS) §12-111 taxpayers are then notified in writing within 1 week as to the findings of the BAA.
RIGHT OF APPEAL
The first formal appeal a taxpayer can make is to the Board of Assessment Appeals in the town or city where the property is located. To accomplish this, taxpayers must take two initial steps:
1) Make a written application on or before February 20 (March 20 if the Assessor has received an extension for the filing of the Grand List)
2) At one of the meetings, offer or consent to be sworn in and give facts required by the BAA, either orally or in writing, or both.
Taxpayers may choose to be represented by attorneys, and if they are not satisfied with the BAA’s decision they may appeal to the Superior Court of the judicial district of the town or city in which their property is located.
Board members will only consider appeals of assessments based on the facts presented that affect value, not when a taxpayer feels that their taxes are too high. Changes in assessments will be based solely on the facts presented.
Occasionally taxpayers may present appraisals with the appeals as justification for a change in value; this course of action is most certainly appropriate. The scope of an appraisal can be for many reasons, such as refinancing a mortgage or settling an estate. It is possible to create a retrospective appraisal, and a tax appeal is one example of a time when one would be warranted. The BAA should be careful to review the appraisal submitted and feel confident that the scope of the appraisal meets the desired purpose of property establishing value as of the appropriate revaluation date. Opinions of value such as a Broker Price Opinion (BPO) or a realtor’s opinion of value can be reviewed but perhaps not given complete weight towards a valuation appeal. Opinions of value as such are not held to appraisal regulations or reporting standards.
Appeals must be presented to the BAA at either its March or September meetings (CGS §12-111). The September sessions of the BAA are reserved for the purpose of motor vehicle assessment appeals only.
The taxpayer must:
1. Submit a written application for appeal to the Board of Assessment Appeals, on or before February 20th, or March 20th if the Assessor was granted an extension for filing of the Grand List. The application form is available at the Assessor’s Office at Town Hall. (CGS §12-111) Note: written applications are not required for September meetings.
2. Appear before the BAA or have his or her attorney or duly authorized agent appear in person at one of its meetings. (CGS §12-113)
3. Be sworn, or have his or her duly authorized agent sworn, before the BAA, and answer all questions concerning his or her taxable property in town. (CGS §12-113)
4. Attorneys do not need to be sworn in by the BAA as they are already considered commissioners of the court. (CGS §12-113)
The written appeal shall include the property owner’s name, name and position of the signer, description of the property which is the subject of the appeal, name and mailing address of the party to be sent all correspondence by the BAA, reason for the appeal, appellant’s estimate of value, signature of the property owner or duly authorized agent of the property owner, and the date of the signature. (CGS §12-111) If any of the above items are missing, or if it is received after the February 20th deadline, the appeal may be rejected.
Most of the BAA’s work entails hearing taxpayers’ appeals and acting on their complaints. The process, which is described under Title 12 in the General Statutes, frees the courts from handling minor cases while freeing taxpayers from costly and time consuming litigation. In most instances, the courts will not hear a case unless the taxpayer uses the legal remedy for relief which boards of assessment appeals provide.
The BAA is said to carry out administrative or ministerial duties when it adds omitted property to the assessment rolls, sends out notices of any changes in taxpayer’s assessments or makes supplemental lists. These functions are specified in the statutes and must be performed by the BAA. Although the statutes frequently use the word “may” the courts will often consider the term equivalent to “shall” or “must.”
POWERS OF THE BOARD
Before hearing an appeal, the BAA shall administer oaths in cases coming before them (CGS §1-24 and CGS §1-25).
After hearing an appeal, the Board may take any of the following actions:
1. Correct issues or mistakes in assessment of property (CGS §12-60). The court is quick to point out this power does not authorize assessors or the BAA to review assessments which were previously appealed and revised by the Board unless there was a change in their property. (CGS §12-111)
2. Add to the Grand List the name of any person omitted by the Assessor and owning taxable property in town. (CGS §12-111)
3. Increase or decrease the assessment of any taxable property. (CGS §12-111)
4. Within 3 months from the completion of their regular duties, the BAA may make supplemental lists for additions to the Grand List of any taxable property omitted in error. (CGS §12-115)
5. Elect not to conduct an appeal hearing for any commercial, industrial, utility or apartment properties with an assessment greater than $1,000,000 .
6. Waive the Income and Expense penalty if a town’s legislative body adopts an ordinance allowing the waiver. (CGS §12-63c(d))
The following statutory duties are mandated by law after BAA members are sworn in.
1. Notice of all regular public meetings to be held by a town’s public agency, as defined in CGS §1-200, must be filed with the Town Clerk. The Board of Assessment Appeals must file notice of its meetings for the ensuing year by January 31st with the Town Clerk. This notice requirement also encompasses any other regularly scheduled meetings (such as an organizational meeting) that the Board may schedule. With respect to meetings to be held in either March or April, the notice as filed should indicate that the Board will schedule hearings for assessment appeals received on or before the applicable grievance date. (CGS §1-225)
2. The agenda of regular meetings shall be available to the public and shall be filed not less than 24 hours before the meetings in the agency’s office or place of business. (CGS §1-225)
3. Must meet in March to hear appeals or April if the Assessor was granted an extension for filing the Grand List. These meetings must be held on business days, which may include Saturdays; the last meeting must be no later than the last business day in March or April. (CGS §12-110)
4. Must convene at least once in September solely for motor vehicle appeals. Notice of the September meeting(s) must be published in a local newspaper at least ten days before the first meeting. These meetings must be held on business days, which may include Saturdays. (CGS §12-110)
5. Must send written notice of the date, time and place of an appeal hearing to each taxpayer who files a hearing request in the required form. Said notice must be sent not later than March 1st. and at least seven calendar days before the date of the hearing. If the town’s assessor receives an extension to complete the Grand List the written notice must be sent not later than April 1st and at least seven calendar days before the date of the hearing. (CGS §12-111)
6. Must hear appeals of persons claiming to be aggrieved by the actions of the Assessor (CGS §12-111 and CGS §12-504d) including any lessee of real estate property whose lease has been recorded and who is bound under the terms of a lease to pay the real property taxes and any person whom title to such property has transferred since the assessment date.
7. Must send written notification of the final determination of such appeals to each such person within one week after such determination has been made. Such written notification shall include information describing the property owner's right to appeal the determination of the BAA. (CGS §12-111)
8. When the BAA determines to increase an assessment for which the owner failed to file the Personal Property Declaration or has omitted assets, the BAA shall add 25% of such assessment, as described in CGS §12-41. (CGS §12-115)
9. Must grant exemptions to disabled veterans whose proof of disability was not filed by the October 1st deadline; this extends the deadline to the date that the Board completes its duties. (CGS §12-95)
10. Meetings of all public agencies, except executive sessions, shall be open to the public. All actions of the BAA must be recorded in the meeting minutes. (CGS §12-113) Agency minutes and record of votes must be available to the public.
11. Minutes must be available to the public within 7 days of each meeting, either in the agency’s office, website or the office of the Secretary of the State. They must contain the record of each member’s vote. Additionally, the votes must be put in writing, and made available to the public within 48 hours of the meetings (excluding weekends and holidays). (CGS §1-225)
WHO MAY APPEAL?
Individuals or organizations claiming to be aggrieved by the actions of the town or city assessors may appeal to the BAA. Only the BAA has the power to take appeals from taxpayers and review and correct the work of assessors.
This is authorized under CGS §12-111 and CGS §12-113. Under CGS §12-119, appeals may be taken directly to the Superior Court without first applying to the Board.
The following individuals or organizations may appeal to the BAA if they feel they are aggrieved by the actions of the Assessor:
1. Taxpayers owning property in the town or city, including any lessee of real property whose lease has been recorded as provided in CGS §47-19, and who is bound under the terms of the lease to pay real property taxes. This includes anyone to whom the title to such property has been transferred since the assessment day.
2. Any scientific, educational, literary, historical, charitable, agricultural, or cemetery organization that claims property tax exemption under provisions of CGS §12-81 and files a tax exempt statement with the Assessor or Board of Assessors (CGS §12-89).
3. Any farmer or group of farmers applying for tax exemptions of farm machinery, horses or ponies owned in the state. (CGS §12-91)
4. Any property owner claiming property tax exemptions.
5. Any association of unit owners charged with the administration of property under the Condominium Act, appealing on behalf of property owners. (CGS §47-80(a))
6. Any owner of farm land (CGS §12-107)(c)), forest land (CGS §12-107(d)), open space (CGS §12-107(e)) and CGS §12-107(f)) and maritime heritage (CGS §12-107(g)) and others qualifying under CGS §12-96 to CGS §12-100, who were denied special classification for taxation purposes (CGS §12-103) and any person who disagrees with the additional conveyance tax determined under CGS §12-540(a) to CGS §12-504(f).
7. Any individual or organization aggrieved by the Assessor’s imposition of an additional conveyance tax under CGS §12-504 a through f.
8. The BAA also has the right to not conduct a hearing on commercial, industrial, utility, or apartment property (CGS §12-111) with an assessed value greater than $1,000,000, however it may be beneficial to consult with the Assessor prior.
Any person receiving an increase in assessment as a result of a certificate of correction for a clerical error (CGS §12-60) or new real estate construction (CGS Sec 12- 53a ) or personal property audit (CGS §12-53), may appeal to the next succeeding Board of Assessment Appeals if the meetings of the BAA for the current Grand List have passed.
What constitutes an aggrieved taxpayer has been considered by the court in several cases. For example, a person who believes their property had an excessive valuation which the BAA refused to reduce is aggrieved in the eyes of the court. However, a taxpayer is not aggrieved unless the alleged assessment increases his or her tax. Moreover, the court has affirmed a taxpayer is not aggrieved where his property was assessed at its true and full value, despite an error in the method of valuation.
Edition: January 1, 2019