Some Franklin County residents, and at least one official, have voiced complaints about a new method of assessing the value of vehicles and other personal property.
The new statewide system uses a vehicle’s identification number (VIN) to better identify the amenities and accessories. The result, in some cases, is a higher assessed value on a vehicle than in previous years.
“When the tax bills first came out, we had a lot of response from the taxpayers,” Franklin County Assessor Tom Copeland said.
Copeland added that there were about 300 complaints or concerns from residents right after the tax bills came out in early November.
“A lot of them didn’t like it,” he said.
Recently, things have calmed down, though, Copeland explained, adding that he thinks people are beginning to understand that the new assessment system is an effort to be more fair and accurate.
“It’s not that we’re out to jack taxes up,” Copeland said.
Franklin County Collector Linda Emmons said many residents have still not opened their tax bills, which are due Dec. 31. Her office is responsible for sending out the bills and collecting the taxes.
Emmons said she believes some residents have been overcharged on their personal property taxes this year.
Her office is getting complaints from residents who say their personal property is valued too high this year, she said. The complaints are about 50 percent more this year than prior years, she said.
Expect Values to Drop
Some residents are upset because their vehicles are said to be worth more this year than last, Emmons said. Residents expect the value to go down as the property gets older, she noted.
Emmons said it is not her fault, adding that the assessor’s office sets the values.
“I think (residents) should really check their bill and their information,” Emmons said.
She worries about angry people coming to her office to pay the tax bills.
The Missourian spoke with a handful of residents outside of the collector’s office Wednesday and none of them indicated that their assessment had increased as a result of the new system.
Washington resident Mark Meyer said taxes on his vehicles did not go up.
“Maybe I’m an unusual one,” Meyer said. “I’m not complaining.”
More than 60,000 pieces of personal property in Franklin County are assessed, and that includes vehicles, boats, trailers, RVs, campers and farm machinery.
Copeland said the bills are more accurate this year than they have been in the past thanks to the new system.
Previously, personal property was identified in a more generic fashion, he said.
For instance, in the past, he said, two vehicles with different values could have been identified as being worth the same amount of money.
But now with the vehicle identification number all of a vehicle’s amenities, such as whether it has four-wheel drive, leather seats and power windows, is included in the value.
The vehicle identification number is looked up in the National Automobile Dealers Association manual to determine value.
This is the first year that Franklin County has used the new system. Some other counties around the state are still putting it in, he said, adding that the system was passed down from the state Department of Revenue.
“All 114 counties are doing it; we’re not here by ourself,” he said. “Everybody’s under the same guidelines of the State Tax Commission as well as the Division of Motor Vehicles.”
It is not a matter of vehicles being assessed at too high a value, Copeland said. Rather, in the past, some personal property has been valued too low, he said.
However, with the new system, he said, there have been some issues with boats. He said people have brought in bills of sale that showed a different value than what was in the National Automobile Dealers Association manual.
And he said there has been a problem with a few Ford cars in which the vehicle identification numbers show the vehicle as having a six-cylinder engine when in fact it has a four-cylinder.
Copeland said the assessor’s office does not want people to overpay taxes.
“We want to make sure we get it right,” Copeland said.
The new assessment method has caused vehicles to go up and down in value, Copeland said.
“There’s as many going down as there is going up,” he said.
But he did not have a specific percentage of vehicles that have gone up in value because of the new system.
New System Fairer
The bottom line is that the new system is fairer because it assesses people’s property more accurately, Copeland said.
It is not fair for a person who owns a vehicle with less amenities to be assessed the same as a person whose car has more features, he said.
“We are assessing you on the product you have decided to purchase,” Copeland said.
He used the example of a pontoon boat with a bathroom, sink and a generator versus a base model.
Previously, those boats could have been grouped into the same pontoon boat category. But now they are looked at individually based on their VINs.
“We wanted to be fair and equitable to every individual,” Copeland said.
If residents want to dispute their personal property values, they can contact the State Tax Commission of Missouri at (573) 751-2414.