Thursday, December 08, 2005

Major Property Tax Case from the Washington State Supreme Court: Distinguishes "Assessment" and "Valuation"

In a five to four decision released today, the Washington Supreme Court found that a taxpayer who claims its real property has depreciated during the four year period since the last "valuation," cannot challenge its previous "assessment" midcycle, but presumably must wait until the next four year valuation. Writing for the five-member majority in ADVANCED SILICON MATERIALS VS GRANT COUNTY, Justice Fairhurst states that "[RCW 84.40.020] requires annual assessments--not annual valuations." The case arises from Advanced Silicon Materials' claim that its property decreased $200 million in value between its last evaluation in 1999 and its assessment in 2002. Writing for the four-member dissent, Justice Johnson argues that "The use of cyclical systems of revaluation does not prevent taxpayers whose properties decline in value midcycle from seeking a refund based on that decline." This case is bad news for Washington property owners and should receive the attention of the Legislature as soon as possible.