In West Virginia, the tax year runs from July 1 to June 30, with the date of valuation being set on July 1 of the prior year. For example, Tax Year 2020 (July 1, 2020 to June 30, 2021) is based on the value of property set on July 1, 2019. Between the July 1 date of value and December 30, West Virginia County assessors perform their assessment reviews to determine property values for the upcoming tax year. Only when the assessed value of any item of real property appraised by the county assessor increases more than 10% from the prior year, will the owner be notified of the increase in assessed value, typically the first few weeks of January. If not notified, a property owner may also obtain their assessment value for the upcoming year by submitting a formal request to the assessor. All assessments are publicly available online the first day of the tax year (July 1, 2020 in the case of Tax Year 2020).
The first level of appealing a real estate assessment typically begins with an informal discussion with the assessor in January prior to the tax year. Although, discussions can begin as early as November, depending on how soon the values are finalized. Many counties in West Virginia require an informal discussion with the assessor before proceeding to the board level. Board of Equalization (BOE) hearings are held in February. The property owner also has the option of appealing the assessor decision to the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA), which is held in October. BOE appeals typically must be filed before February 1. The BAA appeal must be filed by February 20, or appeal rights are lost for that tax year. From experience, it’s best to file board-level appeals to the BOE rather than the BAA, as the BOE hearings occur before annual budgets are set. In West Virginia, the board that sets the county budget tends to also preside over the BAA hearings, which creates a conflict between competing interests.
Finally, should a property owner be unsatisfied with the results from either the BOE or the BAA, a judicial appeal is the next step in the process. However, because the circuit court essentially serves as an appellate court, only complete and certified board records (BOE or BAA) may be reviewed. As such, it’s imperative that all evidence be presented to the board and entered into the record for judicial review, including but not limited to appraisal reports, expert testimony, rent rolls, financial statements, property condition reports, LOIs, PSAs, leases, and actual/projected capital expenditure reports.
Ryan has had particular success in three regions/counties within West Virginia: Monongalia County (home of West Virginia University), Kanawha County (West Virginia State Capital), and Jefferson/Berkeley County (Tertiary Region of the Washington, D.C. Metropolitan Area). Specifically, we’ve had great success in reducing assessments on multifamily, hotel, and retail properties. Much of this success results from managing the appeal process and managing relationships. Most value is achieved at the informal level where assessors have the greatest discretion to reduce assessments. However, it also represents the most challenging period, as appeal positions must be ready the first day of January for informal discussions, and BOE preparations must be ready at the end of January should a settlement not materialize. Once the appeal leaves the informal level, a recent appraisal report, expert testimony, and an attorney are almost necessary to succeed. Given the challenges that West Virginia presents, we typically target appeals of assets with fair market assessed values of at least $10 million.
KEY TAKE AWAY: Start preparing in Q4 2019 for a potential appeal in 2020.
Important Dates for Tax Year 2020
- Date of Valuation: July 1, 2019
- Notice of Assessment Increase, if greater than 10% increase: January 1, 2020 to January 15, 2020
- Informal Discussions with Assessor: January 2020
- BOE Hearings: February 2020
- BAA Hearing Deadline: February 20, 2020
- Tax Year 2020 values released online: July 1, 2020
- BAA Hearings: October 2020