The Appeals Process
Three Steps in the Appeal Process
For the best results, our office recommends the following steps to appeal an assessed value that you question:
- Appeal to the Assessment Team
- Appeal to the Board of Equalization
- File suit in Circuit Court
Departmental Reviews with Assessors
An important point to remember is that an assessment appeal is not a means to lodge a complaint about higher taxes. It is an opportunity for the taxpayer to review the property's market value to assure equalization and accuracy.
After the citizens receive their new values, any land owner who feels their assessment is incorrect will have 30 days from the receipt of their value change notice to file a formal appeal with the Assessment Office. They may contact the Assessment Office to obtain an appeal form or download one from our webpage to schedule an appointment with the assessor who visited their property. Scheduling will begin as soon as Notice of Value statements arrive.
You have a right to see the prior year Property Record Card and the previous value, as well as the new Property Record Card with updated value, so that you can see the reason for any changes. We will provide you with any public information at our disposal which you request to assist you in the appeal, and we encourage you to make use of Eagleweb to obtain assessment information.
Once a written appeal is made, an assessor will review the property record card and may conduct a site inspection of the property in question. During that inspection the land owner may point out to the assessor any information or factors that might affect the value of the property. Then on the scheduled date of the assessor hearing, the land owner will meet with the assessor at the Wise County Justice Center to express any concerns or offer any additional data for consideration. Most issues should be resolved at this level, because any error in measurement, computation, data entry, attribute or description will be corrected during this process.
Please be aware that Virginia State Code Section 58.1-3379B states
…there shall be a presumption that the valuation determined by the assessor is correct. The burden of proof on appeal to the board shall be on the taxpayer to rebut the presumption and show by a preponderance of the evidence that the property in question is valued at more than its fair market value or that the assessment is not uniform in its application and that it was not arrived at in accordance with generally accepted appraisal practices… Our objective is to assess each property at 100% Fair market value, and anyone with an appeal must present evidence supporting their position that our assessment is in error. Remember that our office does not control whether values go up or down. These are market trends which we are required by state law to reflect in our assessed values.
It is a widely held belief that the assessment should be lower than the actual value of your property. In other words, some argue, property should sell at a higher price, or be appraised with a higher value, than its tax assessment. The truth is, however, that to do so would be a violation of Virginia State law, ethical practices, and our Constitutional oath. The Code of Virginia clearly requires our county to value property at 100% of its fair market value. (See Code of Virginia: Section 58.1-3201 for reference.)
A countywide Reassessment falls under the practice of Mass Appraisal, and as such, it will provide a consistent and accurate of appraisal. While an individual appraiser might select between three to six comparable properties that would reflect a higher value on your property, our method assures a fair overall assessment.
It is also important to understand that our assessors are well trained and exceed the qualifications required to conduct this type of Reassessment. They follow the strictest professional standards, and have maintained an excellent record of service to the citizens of Wise County. They are familiar with the trends and history of this area, and pride themselves on achieving accuracy and equality. The Commonwealth of Virginia has certified the Chief Property Assessor of Wise County as the designated assessor to complete reassessments in Wise County, and he and his staff have committed themselves to the highest standards of professional appraisal practice.
Our desire is to provide nothing less than the fairest and most equal assessment possible, and we will gladly adjust the assessment if substantial evidence is presented which disproves the reassessment value. Once a final determination is made, the land owner will receive written notification of the decision with regards to the assessed value of the property.
Board of Equalization (BOE)
If the landowner is not satisfied with the results of the Assessor Hearing, the next outlet at their disposal is a formal hearing which will be held with the Wise County Board of Equalization. A formal appeal must be submitted to the Board of Equalization for their consideration.
The BOE is established under the Code of Virginia Section 58.1-3370. The Board of Equalization of real estate assessments shall have the powers and duties provided by and be subject to, the provisions of Article 14 (Section 58.1-3371 et seq.) of Chapter 32 of Title 58.1 of the Code of Virginia, as amended.
In accordance with Code of Virginia Section 58.1-3371, the Board of Equalization of Real Estate Assessments, often referred to as the BOE, "shall be composed of not less than three nor more than the number of districts for the election of members of the board of supervisors in the County."
Code of Virginia Section 58.1-3374 outlines the specific requirements for the Board of Equalization. All members should be residents of the county. 30% of the BOE Members shall be "commercial or residential real estate appraisers, other real estate professionals, builders, developers, or legal or financial professionals, and at least one such member shall sit in all cases involving commercial, industrial or multi-family residential property, unless waived by the taxpayer." In order to be eligible for appointment, each prospective member of such board shall attend and participate in the basic course of instruction given by the Department of Taxation under Code of Virginia Section 58.1-206. In addition, at least once in every four years of service on a board of equalization, each member of a board of equalization shall take continuing education instruction provided by the Tax Commissioner pursuant to Code of Virginia Section 58.1-206.
The purpose of the BOE is to provide taxpayers an opportunity for a formal hearing with a committee appointed by the Circuit Court to determine if the property in question is assessed at more than its fair market value, if the assessment is not uniform in its application, if the assessment is otherwise not equalized, or if there are mistakes of fact (which include computation). The Board will always presume that the assessment is correct, and the burden of proof will be on the taxpayer or agent to prove that the property in question is not uniform with other similar properties, or prove that the property is assessed in excess of market value, or show that errors were committed during the appraisal of the parcel under appeal. The board will give consideration to each appeal, but before an adjustment is made, a preponderance of evidence (overwhelming evidence) must first be presented that will warrant a change. Supporting documentation (appraisals, photographs, etc) may be brought to the hearing and will be retained as part of the permanent record. It will be the responsibility of the BOE to either increase, decrease or affirm all appealed real estate assessments. To receive relief from the BOE, the taxpayer must produce significant and justifiable evidence that the assessment is erroneous and was not arrived at in accordance with generally accepted appraisal practice. Another opinion of value is not considered a preponderance of evidence by itself.
It is not the job of the BOE to overrule the Assessment Team's value with their own opinion. In fact, the BOE is required by law to assume that the value placed on a property as of January 1, 2018 by the Assessment Team is correct. The BOE's role is to conduct a balanced and independent review, and are only empowered to make a change when there is a preponderance of evidence that an error has been made which caused the final value to be incorrect.
If it is proven that the assessment is in error, the BOE will determine what correction must be made and will order the Assessment Office to make the appropriate adjustments. It is the power and responsibility of the BOE to raise, lower, or affirm any real estate property assessment in order to ensure the equitable distribution of the tax burden among all of the citizens of Wise County. The error in assessment must be clearly identified and specifically explained by the BOE.
Should the BOE fail to abide by the same standards as the Wise County Assessment Team, they would be in violation of Virginia State Law.
Wise County Circuit Court
The other option available to the tax payer is to request a hearing to be held in Circuit Court. This will usually involve the hiring of an attorney to represent the land owner in this matter. A judge will be appointed to hear the case and render a final decision about the appeal. This is the final recourse for individuals who wish to challenge their assessment.