Betz asks those with tax compliance letters to contact county auditor

Staff report

January 30, 2014

GALLIA COUNTY — Gallia County Auditor Larry Betz is encouraging taxpayers to contact his office regarding their property values before hiring an outside firm promising lower taxes.

Property tax values are available at the auditor’s office, where the staff will be happy to explain what values are on record and how to file an appeal. The entire process is free if the taxpayer feels the value is too high. The letters list a sale price and guarantee your value will change to that price if you allow them to file.

The estimated fair market value has several components: the most probable price for which your property would sell; if a sale is used, whether the property was sold in an open market and between a willing buyer and seller or not — this excludes sheriff sales, foreclosures, sales to relatives, etc; how old the sale is and whether or not there have been any changes to the property since the sale date;.

Tax Compliance Services of Cleveland has mailed letters to area residents saying they are offering a “100 guaranteed reduction” in real estate taxes and won’t charge anything until a refund is issued from the county, and then they charge 50 of the refund as their fee. Similar letters have been mailed to property owners in counties across the state and sometimes appeals are filed without the owner’s permission just based on an inquiry call.

The appeal process, called Board of Revision, is a process set up by state law as a method for taxpayers to get their values individually reviewed free of charge. No one can offer a “guarantee” of a value reduction by the Board of Revision.

Betz stated that, “Promises of risk free filings are extremely misleading. Each case is considered on its merits and documentation presented and the Board of Revision can change the value as warranted.”

Any refund generated by the changes would be sent to the taxpayer in its entirety.

“The information is available and easy to access-both on line and in person. Why pay some out-of-town company to provide what you can get for free?”

The letter also cites as its source “2013 County Auditor”, insinuating that the county records are in error. However, the sample letter received by the auditor’s office has information that is not accurate or complete.

In one instance, Tax Compliance Services offers to file an appeal requesting the records to be changed to show an $18,500 value based on their inaccurate sale. The auditor’s office records reflected a value of nearly $6,000 less than this, so this would have resulted in an increase in taxes.

Property owners who believe their value is inaccurate can file a Board of Revision Complaint for free by March 31,2014. Forms and instructions are available from the Auditor’s Office or may be accessed on the auditor’s web site. Taxpayers can view property record cards online by going to The County

Auditor’s Office can be reached at 740-446-4612 extensions, 201,202,273, or 213.