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Mr. DENT. I am the Tax Assessor of the District of Columbia. I Mr. have a deputy assessor, and then I have eight assistant assessors, five Mr. of whom handle the assessment of real estate, and three of whom are per on the Board of Personal Property Tax Appraisers, who handle the assessment of personal property.
In addition to that, I have division heads. I have an administrator of the income tax division, an administrator of the inheritance and estate tax division, and an administrator in charge of the special assessment division.
Mr. BATEs. The responsibility for the determination of property values lies with that group that you mention or with you alone?
Mr: DENT. It lies with the Board of Assistant Assessors for Real Estate. It was a permanent board that was appointed by Congress some years ago.
Mr. Bates. And those are the five members of the eight that you mentioned?
Mr. Dent. Yes, sir; and the three members of the Personal Tax Board were appointed and set up at the same time. Originally there were only three, and as the city became larger, and business became greater, it increased. Now, there are eight, five on real estate, and three on personal property.
I have administrative control over those gentlemen, but I personally do not make the assessments.
Mr. BATES. Who makes the appointment of those five men?
Mr. DENT. They were designated as a permanent board by law, the idea being that they should retain those positions as long as they operate efficiently because it was thought that-I imagine by Congressby long experience they would become more efficient and have a greater knowledge of values in the District.
Mr. BATES. That board, as such, real property board, what is the title of that board?
Mr. DENT. It is the Board of Assistant Assessors for Real Estate.
Mr. BATEs. Now, they have full authority then to determine values for purpose of assessment!
Mr. DENT. Yes, sir.
Mr. DENT. No, sir. In addition to that Board, we have what is known as a Board of Equalization and Review.
Mr. BATES. I am speaking about the original determination.
Mr. DENT. The original determination is made by the Board of Assistant Assessors for Real Estate.
Mr. BATES. And that judgment stands until an appeal is made to the Board of Equalization and Review ?
Mr. DENT. Yes, sir. Mr. Bates. Or, in other words, upon their determination of the roperty, value of any property, that is immediately put on the Asssor's rolls for the purposes of taxation, and stays there until it is hanged by an appeal that may be made by the tax bureau, by the wner, to the Board of Equalization and Review, is that it?
Mr. Dent. That is true, Mr. Chairman. The Board of Assistant Assessors makes changes in assessments annually; those assessments aave to be completed by January 1 of each year. The appeal period before the Board of Equalization and Review is from the first Monday in January until the first Monday in April.
Mr. Bates. Then, is every property owner whose property is revalued, let us say, notified so that he can appeal to the Board ?
Mr. DENT. No, sir; he is only notified by publication; that is what the law requires.
Mr. Bates. Publication; and what is the form of publication?
Mr. BATES. Would that notice in the newspapers contain the number of the block and the property and the owner?
Mr. DENT. No, sir; it is just a general notice that the assessment has been completed for the ensuing fiscal year, and any person ag. grieved by the assessment has the right to appeal to the Board of Review.
Mr. Bates. Then the question I am interested in, though, is what means does the individual property owner have of knowing whether or not his property has been revalued ?
Mr. DENT. Well, Mr. Bates, most of them do know; there are various news items in the newspapers about assessments from time to time. I presume that the reason that the Congress never insisted on a notice to all property owners is because when we get to the question of changing valuations on vacant lots in the outlying sections, there may be thousands and thousands of those lots that are raised from maybe 15 to 20 cents a square foot, and it would be a tremendous job to send out notices to each property owner.
Furthermore, there are thousands of property owners who are nonresidents, and who own vacant property.
Mr. BATES. After the tax bill is sent to the property owner, probably in many cases for the first time they realize the property has been revalued.
Mr. DENT. That is true in some cases.
Mr. BATES. Are there any means by which that property owner, under those circumstances, has a right to appeal for review?
Mr. DENT. No, sir, because the assessments go on the books by January 1; the Board sets from January to April—they become effective the following July, and the bills go out for September payment, so it is too late for them to make an appeal at that time.
Mr. Bates. They can, however, call an unjust assessment to the attention of the Real Estate Board. Mr. DENT. Yes, sir.
Mr. Bates. And the Real Estate Board can entertain, at least, such evidence as they present for the purpose of changing the value if they see fit to do so.
Mr. Dent. Only for the next year.
Mr. Bates. The next year only.
Mr. Dent. I might say, Mr. Bates, that we have had very few con plaints from persons who did not know that their assessments had been raised because in view of the news items in the newspapers, the come down. We have very little trouble on that score.
Mr. BATES. How many appeals do you have? You did not har any review last year, did you, to the extent of any revaluation? Yox are going to have it this year.
Mr. DENT. We have changes every year. We had in the last 2 « 3 years increased land values all over the city of Washington. Mr. Bates. How many parcels would that embrace, roughly? Mr. Dent. I would say thousands.
Mr. BATES. How many appeals have been entered either before the expiration of that date or subsequent to the actual tax?
Mr. Dent. In the last 2 or 3 years, appeals have been very few on account of inflated market prices.
Mr. Bates. In other words, there is no general feeling throughout the city that property is overtaxed here?
Mr. DENT. Well, I would say that in the last few years the reason that we have had so very few appeals has been due to the fact that property has been selling at such ridiculous prices, in my opinion, that they would not have very much of a case. Prior to this rise in real estate prices, during the last few years since the war started, I would say between twelve and fifteen hundred each year.
Mr. Bares. Out of what total assessment in the District ?
Mr. BATES. So you have had between a thousand and fifteen hundred appeals.
Mr. DENT. Yes, sir. I think one of the reasons for that is because we do not-I do not know of any assessing authority in the United States that attempts—to put on an assessment equal to the selling price of a house. For instance, if a house during normal times—
Mr. Bates. I am afraid you are not fully informed on some ot lier parts of the country. Of course, I agree with you that the full sales price as of today on the inflated prices would be a basis for your statement. But going back some 6, 7, 8, 10 years ago, probably in your own District, the actual sales price probably compared pretty well with your assessed value. That is some years ago.
Mr. DENT. I do not want to disagree with you, Mr. Bates, but ac. cording to the National Association of Assessing Officers, the general policy of assessors is in the case of a house that sells for $10,000 during normal times to put that house on at around $8,500. Now, obviously, the purchaser who has paid $10,000 for a house during normal times believes that house is worth $10,000 or he would not have bought it in the first place; he is satisfied, therefore, with an $8,500 assessment.
Mr. BATEs. That is right.
Mr. DENT. Furthermore, by putting it below the price, you reduce the number of appeals, otherwise, if you would put it on at the original price, you would be constantly harassed each year for reduction on account of depreciation, so, in the long run, I think the municipality does better by not putting on the top price and giving credit for depreciation each year.
Mr. Bates. The reason I made that statement, Mr. Dent, as you know, you supplied me with some information from your own files. When I made the statement that your assessment was pretty nearly 100 percent in the prewar years with the sales price of the property, I note here that your assessment in the case of business property actually exceeded the sales price of the property that you gave me.
Mr. DENT. That is true.
Mr. Bates. Now, this schedule here. I want this part of the record, is of quite a number of cases, probably a couple of hundred cases here.
Mr. DENT. About 200, I think.
Mr. BATES. Two hundred were taken as sort of sample cases, not selected at all, but just picked at random from your files, and they are representative cases, are they not?
Mr. Dent. I can assure you, Mr. Bates, that those cases were not hand-picked. We did not pick them with any idea of benefiting the assessor's office.
Mr. Bates In other words, what I asked you to do in order to give us some idea of the background of your assessment policy here, is to pick at random a couple of hundred cases of business property, apartment houses and residential properties, given the assessed value, say, bet ween the years 38 and 40, and the sales price of those properties during that period, and then the very same properties that were sold between 38 and 40, to give the assessed value in '45 and '47 and the actual selling price in that same period, '45 and ?47.
Mr. DENT. They were picked to this extent: That we started out in the low squares and went right on through and picked ont property that had been sold in both of those years. So that you would have a picture as to the selling price in the 1937–38 period, and also the inflated price during the recent period.
Mr. BATES. That is right. And then along with that, you inserted a column of the assessment that you expect to place on those properties
Mr. DENT. They are already on the books; yes, sir. Mr. Bates. And subsequently, I presume, they will be subject to that Equalization and Review Board?
Mr. DENT. Yes, sir. We are beginning to get quite a number of appeals now.
Mr. BATEs. So, what I said at the outset that property values here during the prewar period when we had really subnormal conditions, the assessment was pretty well up toward the actual full value of the selling price of the property.
Mr. DENT. Yes, sir. Of course, I do not believe that the period between '37 and 38 was really a subnormal period because we had a very high market in 25 to 27. Then we had the depression that we all remember-1929. And the market went to pieces in '32 and 33.
Mr. BATEs. That is right. Mr. Dent. It started recovering, and I think by '37 and 38 we had approached what we called a normal market again.
Mr. Bates. So, you would say that the figures you presented here from 38 to 40 represented the normal period?
Mr. DENT. In our opinion, yes, sir. Mr. Bares. Now then, according to this schedule, just for the record, on the entire schedule of business properties, the sales price
during the past 2 years was $2,234,000. The new assessment, that is the combined assessment on those properties of $2,234,000, is $1,600,000, which gives you about a 65 percent assessment basis.
Mr. Dent. That is on the present selling prices.
Mr. BATES. I have in mind, of course, and I am thoroughly in accord with your point of view, that in these inflated times that we ought not to have inflated assessments. If we did have that it means that in the days ahead of you if we had any recession, that you would have those conditions come back to plague you a great deal.
Mr. DENT. I can give you an example of one city in this country that during the high market in 1925 to 1927 increased real estate assessments materially; they secured a considerable amount of additional revenue, and on the strength of that made large capital investments, large capital improvements. When the depression came about they had to reduce those assessments back, and they were loaded up with a tremendous bonded indebtedness, so that 51 cents out of every tax dollar was paid for interest.
Mr. Bates. We had that same situation in many parts of the country, and I recall in the '27 period when the tax commissioner of my own State, operating under compulsory laws, interpreted that the assessed value should be on the fair market value rather than having the assessors applying the 100 percent rule. If we did that we would have wrecked the economy of the communities. We did not do that. These are typical examples of assessment and sales prices, and represent pretty much the general run of your assessment and conditions here in the District; is that right, Mr. Dent?
Mr. DENT. Yes, sir. Mr. Bates. I want to put these in the record at this particular time. (The documents referred to were as follows:)
Comparison of assessed valuations with actual sales for the years 1938-40 and
1945–47, also the assessed valuation for 1948
1940 1940 1939 1940 1938 1910 1910 1938 1940 1939 1939 1938 1939 1939 1938 1910 1940 1939
8, 523 13, 724 88, 453 60, 170 81,899 10, 462 14, 720 5, 616 5, 390 6,040 11,981
13, 5.50 15,524 75, 453 71,170 69, 972 12, 235 23, 956
5, 616 10.836
7, 425 13, 978 13. (126 16, 764 12, 648 12, 600 65,800 13, 257
31 29 66 45 800 832
1, 493, 806 1,318, 928
1, 428, 638 2, 234, 700