For property tax purposes, real estate in Colorado is valued as of January 1st of odd years, based on data for the eighteen month period beginning two years before the assessment date and ending six months before the assessment date. For example, the period used to establish the value for an assessment date of January 1, 2011 is January 1, 2009 through June 30, 2010.
Many property owners have been frustrated in the past few years as assessed values have remained high, despite the fact that property values have clearly deteriorated. While the January 1, 2011 assessments have begun to reflect the deterioration in values, many property owners believe that the assessed values of their properties continue to be overstated.
Frustrated Colorado property owners have the right to appeal property tax valuations through a three-step process. State statutes require the assessor to deliver a notice of valuation to the taxpayer no later than May 1 of the assessment year. The taxpayer then has until June 1 to file a protest with the County assessor, who decides these protests before the end of June or August, depending on the County. If that decision does not satisfactorily resolve the issue, the taxpayer can appeal to the County Board of Equalization no later than July 15 in a County with a June protest decision deadline, or September 15 in a County with an August deadline.
If not satisfied with the results of the Board of Equalization appeal, the taxpayer can appeal the decision further within thirty days of the decision by filing a District Court action in the district where the property is located, appealing to the state Board of Assessment Appeals, or demanding binding arbitration of the dispute before a private arbitrator.
Unless there are complex legal issues involved or a very large amount of taxes at stake, it is not uncommon for property owners to handle the first two stages (protest to the County assessor and appeal to the Board of Equalization) without the benefit of counsel. The records created during those processes are not official, and any omissions of evidence or failures to make particular arguments can be remedied during the third phase, which allows assertion of new theories and arguments, even if not presented previously.
It is during the third stage of the process that the assistance of qualified counsel can be critical. Each of the three options at this third stage is a formal legal proceeding that requires the admission of evidence and the presentation of all relevant legal arguments.
Otten Johnson's Litigation attorneys have substantial experience prosecuting property tax appeals at each stage, and in all venues, and have particular experience dealing with large or complex appeal issues. For more information on this Client Alert or on the property tax appeal process and your rights as a property owner, please contact any of the attorneys in the Litigation practice group (for a listing, click here).
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