The State of Louisiana mandates all Parishes within the State must reassess taxable property (no less than) every four (4) years. This is an unfunded mandate, meaning, the state will not provide funds, supplies, or manpower to assist in this task. Additionally, Assessors throughout the state must adhere to state law and the guidelines and ratios set forth by the Louisiana Tax Commission (LTC). If an Assessor fails to meet these guidelines, they will be forced to reassess by the Tax Commission. These laws and guidelines are designed to keep property assessments fair and equitable, and to prevent Assessors (concerned only with re-election) from keeping assessments low and out of ratio.
The Louisiana Tax Commission sets the guidelines and ratios (assessed value: sales data) with which all Assessors must comply. With that said, our office studies sales data throughout the parish and determines which areas should be targeted for reassessment. The areas that fall out of assessment to sales ratio guidelines require the most attention to be in compliance. Once targeted areas are established, data on the property is collected and adjustments in assessed values are made. Newer subdivisions normally see less of an adjustment due to “year on roll” values being closer to current market values. Older subdivisions that saw an increase during the last reassessment normally see less of an adjustment, as well. Older subdivisions that were not targeted in the last reassessment(s) may see an adjustment. Keep in mind, that ANY subdivisions/areas (new/old/mixed) are subject to adjustment if their assessed values are out of line with current market value. Our goal for reassessment is to cover as much of the parish as possible. But with reassessment being an unfunded mandate, time/money/manpower can be an issue. We have recently acquired new technology and have positioned available staff to continue the parish wide data collection process well after the current reassessment has concluded
In order for our office to properly address your questions and concerns, you must have a basic knowledge and understanding of our office’s functions, procedures, and limitations. First off, here is the basic formula for determining property taxes:
Assessed Value (minus exemptions*) X Millage Rate = Taxes
Land and Residential Improvements (structures) are assessed at 10% of Fair Market Value (FMV)
Ex-$100,000 land and house would be assessed at $10,000.
Commercial Improvements are assessed at 15% of FMV
Ex-$25,000 lot and $75,000 improvement: $2500-Land
$11,250 ($75,000 X 15%-Improvements)
$13,750 Assessed Value
* Homestead Exemption only applies to Parish tax calculations, not City calculations. If your property is within city limits, use the above formula minus Homestead Exemption with the parish millage rate and again at full value for the city with the city millage rate (note the millage rate for the municipalities are considerably lower than the parish rates due to no homestead exemption-more tax base).
Now, the Assessor is required to discover, list, value, and present in taxroll form, all taxable property in the Parish. This includes all land, residential improvements, commercial improvements, and personal property (business assets and inventory).
THE ASSESSOR’S OFFICE IS NOT DIRECTLY RESPONSIBLE FOR YOUR TAX AMOUNT. We ONLY assess property according to Fair Market Value. The tax rate (millage) is set by the various taxing districts across the parish and then finally voted on by YOU, the citizens of Calcasieu Parish. The taxroll is created by the Assessor’s Office. This is the base that the parish taxing districts levy their rates against to create your total tax, depending on which districts your property is in. Your total tax bill is then issued and collected by the Sheriff’s Office.
-If collected sales data reflect market value higher (or lower) than assessed value, adjustments in assessed value are necessary. In most cases, we normally reassess every four (4) years. In this time, the market can fluctuate between reassessments. In other words, just because the market peaked at one point in time and dropped in another point in time doesn’t mean your assessed value followed that trend. When we reassess, your assessment reflects the market value at the time of reassessment, like a snapshot of your value.
-Your assessed value has lagged in relation to current market value and sales data. Data has been collected and your property has been brought in line with Fair Market Value to meet our required ratios.
-There was an improvement to your property (new house, storage bldg, addition, swimming pool, etc) that was added this year.
-There was an improvement added in a previous year (maybe even by a previous owner) that was overlooked (no permit, office error, etc) but has now been discovered during our data collection process and added to your assessment.
-Assessed value increase is not necessarily a 1:1 to tax dollar amount. Any time Homestead Exemption comes into play, it can throw that ratio off. For example (very basic), if the property in which you reside was assessed at $7600 (remember assessed value is 10%) and Homestead Exemption exempts the first $7500 of assessed value from parish taxation, your taxable amount is $100. Say your property was reassessed to $7700, your new taxable amount is now $200. Your taxable amount just doubled, but your assessed value did not. Now, add city taxes (if applicable) and that really throws off the value to tax dollar amount ratio. It just can’t be looked at that way.
It may be one or a combination of factors most common being:
-Your property was in a targeted area and they were not. Due to lack of time/funding/manpower we cannot physically inspect as much property in the parish as we’d like, so, we have to concentrate on the areas that are the most out of ratio and/or those we have collected data on.
-The property you are comparing with has a special level assessment freeze (65+/Veteran/Disability). Properties that qualify for these freezes are protected from reassessments (unless they improve their property by 25% or more of their assessed value).
-Property you are comparing with was completely covered under homestead exemption both before and after reassessment reflecting in no tax bill.
-An error was made on our part and property you are comparing with was somehow missed in reassessment. These missed properties can be adjusted and supplemented to the taxroll.
-The owner of the property you are comparing with simply may not know what their assessment is and if an adjustment was made or not.
-Also, they may not even know what their tax bill is. Our experience has been even though a bill is sent to the property owner, if they have a mortgage, the mortgage company pays the bill without the homeowner being aware of the tax amount (or that they pay property taxes at all).
-Have you improved your property (new house, new commercial bldg, addition, storage bldg, pool, etc)?
-If not, your property was most likely undervalued prior to the reassessment and needed adjusting. This does not necessarily mean it increased in value from one year to the next, it simply means your property may have been undervalued for several years and was just adjusted during this reassessment. What normally happens, if your improvement (house etc) is older, it has generally built value over time (in most cases) and most likely hasn’t been reassessed since the last reassessment (if not longer) and our assessed value fell far enough out of ratio that warranted reassessment.
-Is the property you are comparing in the same taxing districts? Properties with the same assessed value but in different taxing districts will have different tax amounts due.
-Your property may be in a targeted area and the property you are comparing with may not be. There may be several reasons for this case.
-Office error. We may have missed that property out of error. There are over 180,000 parcels in Calcasieu Parish. Mass appraisal techniques are based on averages and mistakes will happen.
-More than just living area square footage is examined for determining assessed value. Locational attributes (corner lot, waterfront, golf course, etc), garage size, storage bldgs, effective age remodeled), swimming pools, etc are all criteria considered for assessment value. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples.
-Do you know the exact square footage of the property you are comparing? Does the other property owner know their own exact square footage? Although most people can approximate the square footage, few know exact figures of their own property much less someone else’s. Just because your friend has 4 bedrooms and you have 3 does not make yours smaller. Looks can be deceiving.
There are some property attributes our office does not consider when valuating properties. Improvements such as: Fences, driveways/concrete slabs, above ground pools, landscaping, ceiling height, countertop/flooring material, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, deferred maintenance, etc.
Most attributes are approximated and averaged according to quality of construction and location. Also, we use OUTSIDE square footage measurements. This takes into consideration the brick ledge (if applicable) and any other wall thickness. Our footages may be different than what your house plans show depending on how the footages on the plans were figured (inside room dimensions for ex).
It is your right to inquire/question and protest your property assessment value. No one is above making mistakes and with over 180,000 parcels in Calcasieu Parish, there will be errors. We try to keep those errors to a minimum and will be more than happy to correct any mistake our office makes.
With that in mind and barring any office errors, here are several points to be aware of when questioning your assessment:
-Do you know what your house is worth? Remember, you are questioning your value not your tax amount. If your property is in a targeted area we have done research and have data to back up our valuations.
-You would need to provide us with data we may not be aware of to state your case. A certified appraisal is the most credible form of documentation that can help your case. Pictures of the interior of your house (if it’s in question) showing a state of disrepair. Please note that deferred maintenance (needed paint, old roof, appliances, etc) is NOT a reason for adjusting values lower.
-Your insurance declaration page. The insurance company usually has a good idea what the house is worth if they had to replace it. Sometimes this is a good starting point.
-If your property is an income producing property, you may provide us with an audited income and expense report.
If an agreement is not reached, you may make a formal protest and follow the procedures set forth by the Louisiana Tax Commission.