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Guest Commentary (7)

In or out? Up or down? Left or right?

one way signsIn today's world of social media and the multitude of outlets for public discourse, how disturbing is it that much of our public discourse has been reduced to a dialog that consists of either being for or against without any consideration for the many nuances and issues that fall between those two extremes?

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For whom the tax credit tolls, it tolls for thee

100 dollar billsI spent a rather interesting day last week, and by day I mean the entire day, waiting to testify before the Ways and Means Committee in Annapolis in support of House Bill 822.  This bill is being sponsored by Delegate Frush and is designed to provide a tax incentive for purchasing long-term health care insurance. (There is a comparable bill in the Senate, SB6, sponsored by Senator Klausmeier.)

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Voter identification and the right to vote

voting signFifty years after the historic march on Selma for voting rights we should give pause and reflect how far we have come.  This is how far: fifteen red states recently enacted voter I.D. laws to address a problem that does not seem to exist with a remedy that does not seem to address the non-existing problem. 

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Senator Mikulski and the ensuing dominoes

Chris Van HollenSenator Barbara Mikulski's announcement that she will not seek re-election for the Senate in the 2016 election has set off a domino effect.  There will undoubtedly be many candidates announcing their candidacy for her Senate seat in the upcoming months and several of them will be highly qualified and quite desirable candidates. 

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The "Trickle Down" apparently doesn't extend to higher minimum wages

 

CashWe recently posed a question to our readers which was intended to be quite straightforward; the responses we received proved to be anything but!  Our question was this: "If you believe in trickle-down economics, then shouldn't you support raising the minimum wage?"

Our thinking in posing the question was that the concept of supply side economics as espoused by Ronald Reagan and commonly referred to as "trickle-down economics" primarily calls for reducing or eliminating taxes on corporations and easing their regulatory burden.  As this economic theory goes, by taking such actions, it is expected that the money saved would be re-invested in the economy and, thereby, benefit all with at least some of that new prosperity finding its way into the households of the working class. 

With the rise of income inequality over the last thirty to thirty-five years resulting in such statistics as the top 400 wealthiest Americans accounting for as much wealth as the bottom 155 million Americans, it is safe to say that is clearly not happening.  Therefore, and again as straightforward as we can make it, wouldn't raising the minimum wage serve as an effective mechanism for breaking the logjam of profits at the top of the income scale and help some of that wealth find its way into the pockets of the workers as, apparently, expected by Ronald Reagan and his economic advisor, David Stockman, who readily used the term "trickle down"?

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Real Estate Taxes less taxing

MAKING PROPERTY ASSESSMENTS LESS TAXING

When You Need to Appeal a Real Estate Tax Assessment, Hiring a Pro is the Way to Go

By Rory S. Coakley

As a property owner, you should pay only your fair share of real estate taxes.  But how can you tell if your real estate tax bill is higher than it should be?

According to the website of the D.C. Office of Tax and Revenue (OTR), “Uniform and accurate assessments are the foundation of fair property taxation.”  But what sounds fair in principle often can be quite difficult to achieve in practice.

Property tax assessments are done every three years in Maryland and once a year in Virginia and Washington, DC.  Each jurisdiction is unique, with its own culture, forms, systems and processes.

A plethora of data goes into a residential or commercial property assessment: lot size, square footage, number of baths, number of elevators, garage size, whether or not there is a finished basement, whether or not there is a pool, and so on.

Did a tax assessor visit your property in developing this assessment?  Probably not.  Residential assessments in this region are generally done using a mass appraisal process; individual assessors do not go into each and every home.

Local assessment offices are often understaffed and overworked—they can struggle to handle the thousands of properties they are required to assess. They do the best they can without going to very many properties, and there is plenty of room for error. This can mean bad news for property owners. Whether it is due to the assessor being unaware of specific conditions affecting a property or human error, when there are problems with your real estate tax assessment, it's money out of your pocket.

Upon receiving the assessment notice, the property owner is allowed to file a real estate tax appeal which can affect his or her taxes for several years to come. If you suspect your real estate tax assessment is higher than it should be, or that it is incorrect, don’t wait.  Make sure you contact the state or county assessment office, depending on where you live, within the timeframe allowed for filing an appeal. In Maryland, the appeal must be filed within 45 days of the date of the notice.  Meeting this deadline preserves your right to have a mail-in appeal, telephone hearing or in-person hearing with an assessor. It’s best to insist on having a face-to-face meeting.

Once you file your appeal, start the process by requesting copies of the assessment worksheet on your property (there may be a nominal charge). Analyze that worksheet to determine where there might be errors or flaws. To see a sample of the worksheet used in Maryland, go to http://www.dat.state.md.us/sdatweb/Worksheet.pdf

Information and evidence needed to support your appeal could include:

$1·        Sales comparables;

$1·        Architectural drawings;

$1·        Site plans or plats;

$1·        Topographic surveys; and

$1·        Other documentation critical to your appeal process.

If you decide to appeal, keep in mind that challenging an assessor's opinion takes expert training in areas such as appraisals, state and local mandates, approaches to valuation and negotiation techniques – as well as knowledge of the assessment office's procedures. Given this complexity, it might make sense to have a real estate professional who is experienced in tax appeals represent you in your appeal. The tax appeal pro can give educated and knowledgeable recommendations as to whether or not an appeal would be the right choice for you.

The tax appeal consultant follows a step-by-step approach:

$1·        Meeting with the client to gather data and decide on the best appeal strategy and approach.

$1·        Producing a preliminary analysis to confirm that the appeal is in the client’s best interest.

$1·        Filing requested petitions and appeals.

$1·        Revising preliminary conclusions about the asset and its value and packaging casework.

$1·        Meeting with the assessor to review the case.

$1·        Representing the client through the appeal process.

$1·        Reviewing the final assessment and advising of any other actions that could further reduce the assessment.

$1·        Staying in touch with the client to monitor any changes in the asset and its performance.

It’s like trying to handle a legal matter without a lawyer. The tax appeal consultant is the property owner’s advocate. Not only that, but a tax appeal consultant will have access to pertinent information, such as appraisals on similar properties, that the homeowner does not have.  Also, the consultant knows the right questions to ask if there is a need to challenge the basis for the assessment.

Spoiler alert!  There is a risk involved in filing an appeal:  it could open the door to a possible tax increase.  But the benefits, which include increased cash flow and minimized operating costs, far outweigh the potential risk.

Rory S. Coakley is founder and president of Rory S. Coakley Realty, Inc., a full-service residential and commercial real estate company providing property management, sales and leasing, tax appeals, appraisals, litigation support and more to the Washington D.C. metropolitan area since 1989. 

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Rockville resident recalls the Master Plan and the politics of the city as a matter of civic honor and pride

PencilPaperTen years ago the residents of East Rockville made a contract with City of Rockville when the Mayor and Council approved their Neighborhood Plan.  This plan was the contract, and it was developed in careful, thoughtful, and deliberate partnership with residents as a guide to protect the character and quality of the East Rockville neighborhood.

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