By Sarah Kahlich, AWB ®, Senior Wildlife Biologist & Registered Property Tax Consultant

Around May 1st every year, central appraisal districts mail notices of appraised value to property owners. Often, the first thing a landowner notices is there is no value in the “Productivity Value of Ag/Timber Land” for the current year when there was the year before. This may cause increased heart rate and confusion to the person reading the notice. The most common first thought to cross one’s mind is, “Oh no! My wildlife valuation has been denied!!!”

The appraisal district is required by law to mail these ‘Notices of Appraised Value’ to landowners. They do this so you will be aware of the market value of your property. If the county requested a new ag/wildlife application, you are a new landowner, or you submitted an updated application, many appraisal districts remove the agricultural value from their systems until they have a chance to review and approve the wildlife or agricultural application.

For a landowner who has not recently purchased their property or has not filed an open space application in the current year, a zero productivity value is a cause for concern and a reason to protest. If you submitted an application in the current year and your wildlife or ag valuation was to be denied, the county is required to send a certified denial letter. The letter must state why it was denied and give you 30 days (typically) to protest their decision. Denial letters should always be protested, even if the issue seems to be settled with an appraisal district. When you file a protest, it will protect your rights as a landowner and provide an evidence trail that the issue was resolved.

Remember that even if your property has an ag or wildlife valuation, it still has a market value. You should pay attention to how much your market value has increased in the current year. If you feel the increase is excessive it is important that you protest the new market value with your appraisal district by the deadline mentioned in the letter (usually May 31st or 30 days from the date of the notice, whichever is later). Watch out for new improvements appearing on the rolls; sometimes the steep increase in value is a result of a new structure which was not reflected on the previous year’s rolls. Remember that your house and land around it will be taxed at market value, even if you have an ag/wildlife valuation.

Why is protesting the market value important even though you currently have an ag/wildlife valuation on the property? If you were to ever lose your valuation you would pay taxes on the market value. If you decide not to participate in wildlife management or agriculture in the future, the county can hit you with 5 years of rollback taxes, which is the difference between your open-space taxes and the market value taxes plus interest. By the time rollback hits it is too late to protest the market value increase in prior years. Whenever you’re in doubt, you should protest before the deadline. A protest can always be revoked, but once the protest deadline has passed you are stuck for the year.

Plateau offers a service providing property tax consultation in matters dealing with your ag or wildlife valuation. We’re uniquely qualified to perform this service because we have biologists on staff who are also registered property tax consultants – this means Plateau professionals have a greater understanding of your property tax issues relative to ag and wildlife management. Plateau clients with any questions or concerns about their Notice of Appraised Value can contact us and send a copy for further evaluation.

AUTHOR: Sarah Kahlich
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