Phil Mendelson, chairman of the D.C. Council, wants residents to make sure they aren’t paying too much in property taxes. (Photo/philmendelson.com)
On March 23 at Turkey Thicket Recreation Center in Ward 5 and on March 26 at the Anacostia Library in Ward 8, D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson (D) held his annual “Tax Town Hall Meetings” that focus on the District’s real property assessments. The workshops, led by his office and staffed by employees of the Office of Tax and Revenue, are in their 12th year and are designed to help District homeowners make sure they are paying the right amount of property taxes. At the Anacostia Library, Mendelson told a small gathering of residents that taxing real property is a favored tool for collecting revenue by many municipalities including the District.
“Real property taxes are popular among government leaders because it is not as volatile as sales or incomes taxes,” the chairman said. “Real property tax is based on wealth and it is more progressive in the collection process. If you are a low-income resident, you tend to pay less tax.”
The chairman said residents get two notices in the mail early in the year: a property tax bill and a proposed assessment of the property that is owned. He said that the assessments are generally assumed to be correct by employees of the Office of Tax and Revenue but residents should review their bill anyway for errors.
Mendelson said that if a D.C. homeowner disagrees with the assessment of their property they must file an appeal by April 1. “In regards to the appeals, you can fax it, mail it, do it online and bring it in person,” he said. “When you file an appeal, an assessor can give you the assessed rates on comparable properties. This is important because we have had instances where someone bought a house for $400,000 but it was assessed at $600,000 because of where it was located and that’s not right.”
D.C. assesses income, sales, and property taxes for its operations. The tax rate for District homeowners is 85 cents per $100 of assessed value.
With the District’s real estate market soaring in price and demand, there have long been complaints by senior citizen groups and low-income advocates that property taxes are too high and give an unfair advantage to those with higher incomes. Mendelson said that he and his council colleagues have heard the concerns of those affected groups and have acted. “The council has adopted different strategies to mitigate the tax,” he said. “We want property to be used and not stand dormant.”
Mendelson mentioned the District’s tax relief programs including the homestead deduction, senior citizen property tax relief, historic properties program, and the lower income homeownership tax abatement. The homestead deduction of 50 percent of property taxes is for homeowners who are 65 and make under $125,000 while the senior citizen tax relief program offers a tax credit of $127,000 for residents who are 70 and have lived in their homes for 25 years. “Under the senior citizen program, you can defer the tax bill,” he said.
The chairman said if a resident isn’t satisfied with the result of their April 1 appeal, the next step is to take the matter to the Real Property Tax Appeals Commission within 45 days of the date of the April 1 decision. This second-level appeal will be decided by Feb. 1, 2017, and if the homeowner is still dissatisfied, a complaint can be filed with the D.C. Superior Court by Sept. 30, 2017.