Recently, the Clay County Assessor, Cathy Rinehart, sent out a letter regarding the way vehicles are assessed. She brought up two options that were distinct and separate, but many have thought to be tied together – they are not. In addition, the issue she raised has nothing to do with any recent change in the law. The existing statute has been on the books for several years, so the implication that lawmakers have done anything to cause this through recent legislation is false.
Many have raised the concern that this is a back door tax increase. I fight every day to keep taxes low so I am very sensitive to this accusation. Any increases, however slight, would be due to a used car market that has caused some cars to be valued slightly higher than they might have been in the previous years. Increased valuation is NOT across the board and depends on your vehicle. Although perhaps counter-intuitive, in the current market, some used cars might show a higher value, but most will not. It is not unlike one’s home appreciating in value. Admittedly, we are much more used to a rising housing market, not a rising auto market. However, should there be a rise in value, it is most likely an anomaly due to the current economic environment.
In regards to the Assessor’s first suggestion of changing the statute language to “may” and having the ability to use the Kelly Blue book value, I have a few concerns. I am opposed to language that gives too much discretion to any government official or agency. By using the word “may” instead of “shall”, it leaves a lot of room for subjectivity. For this reason, I am opposed to the change in language. Upon further research, I found the Assessor actually has discretion within the current system. The NADA valuation book offers three choices of value: Clean, Average and Rough. In one example I researched, a 2006 truck had a $3500 difference between the Clean and Rough values. So a question arises as to which value the Assessor is using in the calculation.
I am adamantly opposed to the Assessor’s second suggestion of using weight as the determining factor for property tax. This would greatly discriminate against those with older vehicles, businesses with trucks and the like. In effect, the taxes you pay on your vehicle would never go down.
Some options I am discussing with fellow legislators are to forbid any personal property to be assessed higher than the year prior, require the Assessor to print the value assessed (it is not currently published on tax bills), and allow for an appeal process on the valuation of your automobile.
Here in Jefferson City, I am working with the rest of the Clay County delegation to determine the most appropriate course of action that is in the best interest of taxpayers statewide. I hope this feedback and response is helpful and we can work together to make sure there is accountability and transparency in all of government.