Assessor Statutory Duties
The Office of the county assessor is primarily concerned with determining equitable values on both real and personal property for tax purposes (§63-207, I.C.). However, the office has one other function that is detailed and time-consuming. The assessor acts as the agent of the Department of Idaho Transportation in titling and registering vehicles (§49-401A, §49-501, I.C.), The law also provides that if the governor thinks it is necessary to call up a militia, he/she may order the assessor to carry out a registration of all county residents liable for such service (§46-104, I.C.).
The voters elect the county assessor for a term of four years (Article 18, Section 6, Idaho Constitution). Candidates for the office are nominated at primary elections. However, if the county chooses an optional form of county government, the structure of the assessor’s office could change. Possible changes are changing the term of office, appointing an individual to the office, or eliminating the office and having the duties and responsibilities performed by other elected officers or appointed persons (Title 31, Chapters 52-56, I.C.). The county commissioners determine the assessor’s salary in each county (§31-816, I.C.). The assessor is empowered to appoint deputies and clerical assistants (§31-2003, I.C.). The compensation of these deputies and assistants is determined by the county budget approved by the county commissioners. When there is more than one deputy in an office, one must be designated as the senior deputy at the time of appointment. The senior deputy then acts for the assessor when absent or in any way incapacitated (§31-2006, I.C.). All deputies and clerks must also take and file an official oath before performing their duties (§59-406, I.C.). The assessor is sworn into office on the second Monday in January (§59-404, I.C.). Appointments of deputies must be documented (§31-2007, I.C.), and the oath of office and the appointment form are customarily joined together into one legal document for filing.
The assessor is required to furnish a bond for the performance of his/her duties (§31-2015, I.C.). The county furnishes such bond. However, since this office is also involved in selling vehicle licenses, the county commissioners may require an additional amount for this function. The bond limit is not more than $50,000 for license collectors (§31-2015, I.C.).
Assessment of Property:
The office of the assessor is responsible for the assessment of property. This is the first step in property tax administration, determining the value of real and personal property for tax purposes. The duties of the assessor in regard to this function are prescribed in Title 63 of the Idaho Code (§31-2501, I.C.).
Real Property Assessment and Records:
Assessment of real property, and of personal property that is entered on the property roll, is a continuing process. Land and improvements on the land, such as buildings, are assessed in categories (§63-109, I.C.). All property is to be assessed uniformly throughout the state at its market value for assessment purposes (§63-205 & §63-208, I.C.).
The assessor is required to have an accurate and complete plat book of land in the county, with ownership records kept up-to-date (§63-209, I.C.). Some counties do this by contractual arrangement with the local land title office, which furnishes photostat copies of all changes in ownership. Others have deputies in charge of the plats who follow all property transfers and make the necessary changes in the plat books and other assessment records.
Legal descriptions of new and altered taxing districts and maps of new districts and of altered portions of existing districts must be filed with the county assessor, the county recorder and the state tax commission within 30 days after the change is effected (§63-215, I.C.).
Land valuation is basic in real property appraisal for tax purposes. Periodic revaluation of all property is carried out under rules promulgated by the state tax commission. There is constant up-dating of values on lots and lands that have changed in use since the last complete revaluation; with an actual sampling of sales used in estimating current land values (§63-203; §63-205 and §63-601, I.C.).
The assessor is to carry out a continuing program of valuation of all properties pursuant to rules prescribed by the state tax commission, to ensure that all properties are appraised at current market value for assessment purposes (§63-314, I.C.). In order to promote uniform assessment of property, taxable property must be appraised or indexed annually (§63-314, I.C.). To achieve this, at least 20 percent of the property in the county must be included in each year’s appraisal, resulting in a complete appraisal of all property every five years. The results of the annual 20 percent appraisal must be used to index all property not actually appraised to reflect current market values (§63-314, I.C.). The county assessor must maintain records showing when each parcel or item of property was last appraised (§63-314, I.C.). The board of county commissioners of each county is to furnish the assessor with such additional funds and personnel as may be required to carry out the valuation program and may levy a tax not to exceed four hundredths percent of market value for assessment purposes (0.04%) to pay the costs (§63-314, I.C.).
The state tax commission prepares and distributes to each county assessor rules prescribing the manner in which market value for assessment purposes is to be determined for tax purposes (§63-208, I.C.). The rules require each assessor to find market value for assessment purposes of all property within his/her county according to recognized appraisal methods and techniques as set by the commission, provided that the actual and functional use must be a major consideration when determining market valuation for assessment purposes (§63-208, I.C.).
To maximize uniformity and equity in assessment, the rules require, to the extent practicable, the use of reproduction or replacement cost less depreciation as opposed to historic cost less depreciation whenever cost is considered as a single one of the several factors in establishing market value of depreciable property (§63-208, I.C.). State law (§63-205, I.C.) requires that all property subject to assessment shall be assessed for taxation.
The property assessment roll must be completed and delivered to the clerk of the board of county commissioners on or before the fourth Monday of June (§63-310, I.C.). The clerk must transmit it to the board of county commissioners for equalization.
Personal Property Assessment:
All personal property is reassessed each year by the assessor’s office. The items included are construction equipment, business furniture, and fixtures, transient personal property such as road building equipment (§63-201, I.C.), certain types of manufactured homes (§63-305 and §49-155, I.C.), and many other categories of personal property not easily located and listed.
Assessors in the state must send a personal property declaration to property owners to use in reporting their personal property for the year. Since the annual date for assessment is on the first day of January, personal property reporting sheets are sent out early in the year, with a March 15 deadline for their return (§63-302, I.C.). These reports are supplemented by official spot checks by deputies in the field.
The property roll includes all personal property assessed by the fourth Monday of June and must be delivered to the clerk of the board of county commissioners on or before the fourth Monday of June (§63-310, I.C.) for equalization (§63-501, I.C.). Personal property assessed after the fourth Monday of June is included on the subsequent personal property roll and must be delivered for equalization by the fourth Monday of November (§63-311 and §63-501, I.C.).
Motor Vehicle Licensing and Title:
The role of motor vehicle license salesman was assigned to the assessor’s office when a local office was needed for licensing a small number of cars in the early part of this century. The operating fee for motor vehicles in Idaho is in lieu of personal property taxes (§49-401, I.C.). Manufactured homes however, cannot be licensed without a verification that the property tax for the applicable year has been paid (§49-422, I.C.).
The assessors are agents of the state Department of Transportation and are directed to perform the duties prescribed in the Uniform Registration Act (§49-205, I.C.) and the Idaho Motor Vehicle Act (§49-401A, I.C.). The Department of Transportation furnishes supplies and license plates (§49-201 and §49-443, I.C.). These responsibilities require approximately one-fourth to one-third of all the personnel in the assessor’s office and often as much as one-half of the total space and capital equipment in the office.
In January 1970, the motor vehicle license procedure was changed to provide a staggered license expiration period rather than a single date on which motor vehicle licenses expired. The staggered expiration period has reduced the problem of a single workload peak in the county assessor’s office. State law provides 12 registration periods, starting in January and proceeding consecutively through December, each expiring at midnight on the last day of the month (§49-402, I.C.). The number on the vehicle’s validation registration sticker determines when the motor vehicle license expires. A sticker with a “1” expires at midnight January 31; a sticker with a “12” expires at midnight December 31 (§49-402, I.C.). A person purchasing his/her first license for a car receives a new plate with the proper adhesive sticker of renewal. §49-402, I.C., gives initial authority to register vehicles for less than a 12-month period or more than a 12-month period and to prorate on a monthly basis. There has been a policy of not registering vehicles less than 1 month nor more than 24 months.
The fee varies for each passenger motor vehicle not used for hire and each pickup truck having a gross weight of not more than 8000 pounds, depending on its age (§49-402, I.C.). Fees for other types of vehicles are fixed by state law (§49-434, I.C.). Certain types of motor vehicles, such as, ATVs, UTVs, motorcycles, trucks, motor homes, travel trailers, wreckers (depending on registration category), snowmobiles and utility trailers have licenses, which expire on December 31 of each year rather than on a staggered basis (§49-402, I.C.). Subsection §49-402(6), I.C., provides for repossession plates to be used by the repossessor moving a vehicle pursuant to a security agreement; plates are issued by the Transportation Department.
The following is a partial list of the legal responsibilities for the assessor’s office relating to licensing and titling:
1.Selling license plates: The assessor
a. Handles applications for registration for passenger vehicles, trucks, and buses ( §49- 401A, 49-401B, 49-434(1), I.C.);
1) Motorcycles are included as licensed vehicles (§§49-114(9), 49-402(3), I.C.);
2) Trailer houses are included as licensed vehicles (§49-422, I.C.);
3) City buses and school buses are included as licensed vehicles (§§49-402(2) and 49-434, I.C.);
b. Computes license fees (§§49-402; 49-434, 49-401B, I.C.);
c. Creates a record of the restraint and registration issued, by the license plate number (§49- 401B, I.C.);
d. Issues registration cards to accompany each set of license plates (§49-419, I.C.);
e. Collects registration fees (§§49-402, 49-434, 49-445, I.C.);
f. Accepts applications for special plates for national guard, §49-404, I.C., radio amateurs, §49-405, I.C., old-timer license plates, §49-406, I.C., and mails directly to the Idaho Transportation Department;
g. Processes the transfer of license plates from a car that has been disposed of during the licensing period to the owner’s new car (§49-431, I.C.);
h. May sell pleasure boat stickers for the Parks and Recreation Department (§§67-7013, §67-7008, I.C.);
2. Titling motor vehicles: The assessor
i. Accepts filing of applications for Titles (§49-504, I.C.), along with required supporting documents, and enters the proper recorded date when a lien is being recorded (§49-510, I.C.)
j. Collects fees (§49-202, I.C.);
3. Performs special services in connection with duplicate registration cards, replacement plates and validation stickers (§§49-202, 49-425, I.C.);
4. Collects sales tax, when it has not been previously collected by the seller, e.g. dealer, retailer, or private party (§63-3610, I.C. and by administrative order of the Sales Tax Division of the State Tax Commission).
County government receives some compensation for the state mandated duties of county assessors. For example, an administrative fee for actual costs, may be imposed in addition to each motor vehicle registration tax or fee collected under §49-402, I.C., and §49-434, I.C. A number of other, title and registration fees are listed in §49-202, I.C. The administrative fees collected under §31-870, I.C., and other sections are placed in the county current expense fund. Idaho law clearly states that county elected office-holders collecting fees must turn over their fees to the county treasury (§31-3101, I.C.).
Revenue Allocation Financing of Urban Renewal Projects:
The Assessor must prepare a base assessment roll showing the value of all taxable property in the urban development area as of January 1 of the year in which the urban renewal district is established. Each year thereafter, the assessor must determine the new additional value of property within this district and must certify this information separately on listings of value by district submitted to the state tax commission (§50-2901 to §50-2912, I.C.).
Taxpayers who feel their tax bills are too high usually blame the assessor’s office. It is also the place taxpayers go when they want a particular license plate number. Frequently they are not satisfied with the response they get in either case.
Most tax increases are brought about by inflation and increased budgets, which in turn require increases in the levies certified by cities, school, road, and other taxing districts. For this type of tax increase the assessor bears no responsibility. If taxpayers wish to have their opinions heard concerning levies, they must attend the hearings held by these districts and cities.
The assessor’s office should be active in helping achieve an understanding between the county commissioners and the taxpayers. When there are increases in valuation, which may result in tax increases, holding taxpayer meetings to explain increases can be very helpful in reducing complaints.
County newspapers and radio and television stations are usually willing to cooperate in publicizing county assessment policies. Publicly explaining the complexity of government can lighten the load of complaints in the assessor’s and county commissioner’s offices during peak load periods. Assessors have helped this process by sending out letters to accompany and explain the annual valuation statements mailed in June.