Facebook Twitter

Shift in tax burden has counties worried

SHARE Shift in tax burden has counties worried

OGDEN — While northern Utah residents have seen property taxes on their homes and small businesses nearly double in the past 10 years, taxes of many major corporations have decreased.

This shift of the tax burden — a continuing trend — has county officials concerned for their constituents and feeling powerless to stop it.

The Utah Association of Counties said that from 1990 to 1999, centrally assessed taxes on multi-county businesses dropped 7.7 percent statewide while taxes on locally assessed homes and businesses increased 93.3 percent.

Properties that are centrally assessed by the Utah Tax Commission include utility, transportation, mining and natural resource companies located in more than one county in the state.

"As the commission shifts the tax burden away from these companies, it falls on homeowners and local businesses," said Bill Thomas Peters, legal counsel for the Utah Association of Counties.

Brent Gardner, the association's executive director, wrote Gov. Mike Leavitt in October, asking that the shift in the tax burden be examined and measures taken to address it.

"The shift has occurred gradually and was almost undetectable at first," Gardner said.

Weber County Assessor Cheryl Madson said she often learns about the appeals after decisions have been handed down, leaving her without a voice in the process.

"The balance between county and state government needs to be restored," Madson said. She said lowered assessments on centrally assessed property affect taxpayers because tax rates have to be increased to make up for the loss.

Doug Larsen, Weber County chief deputy assessor, said tax refunds to corporations also sometimes show up in the form of judgment levies on residential tax notices.

Since appeals can take years to fight in court, by the time corporations are granted refunds, counties have budgeted and spent the money from the original valuation and have to make up the difference through judgment levies to local property owners.

Sen. Scott Jenkins, R-Plain City, is sponsoring a bill that would require the tax commission to give notice of appeals in progress to county attorneys, assessors and recorders.

Greg Fredde, president of the Utah Mining Association, said the different dynamics between centrally and locally assessed properties are behind the different tax assessments.

"Home values appreciate as an asset while centrally assessed properties actually depreciate," Fredde said. He cited the example of mining and natural resource companies whose resources are depleted over time.