Cincinnati homeowners may obtain a Community Reinvestment Area (“CRA”) tax abatement by renovating existing residential structures. This practice is common and reduces tax liability for homeowners who make such renovations. That said, recently, various homeowners with existing CRA Tax Abatements suffered a reduction in their existing CRA Tax Abatement. This issue was as new to us as it may be to you.

To preemptively clear up the foregoing issue for others, this blog post will discuss a background of the CRA Tax Abatement Program for existing residential structures, the importance of submitting the application in a timely manner, and how the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office, which has a duty to make appraisals, and can make such appraisals based on its own preferred method, calculates Tax Abatements.

Background

The CRA Tax Abatement Program is meant to stimulate revitalization, retain residents, and attract new homeowners, in the Cincinnati area. To encourage the foregoing types of behavior, the City of Cincinnati Department of Economic Development provides CRA Tax Abatements to certain homeowners who renovate existing residential structures (e.g., residential homes and residential condos, up to three units). To qualify for a CRA Tax Abatement, the cost of renovations must total at least $2,500.00, or $5,000.00, depending on the number of units in the residential structure. Some renovations, which might increase the marketability of a residential structure, are not contemplated in the cost of renovations (e.g., roofing, windows, gutters, vinyl siding, etc.) Likewise, unrelated improvements and tax on the land itself are not contemplated in the cost of renovations.

To apply for the CRA Tax Abatement Program, applicants will need to submit an application to the City of Cincinnati Department of Economic Development. Applicants who are renovating existing residential structures must pay an application fee of $250.00, which may be paid by check, to the “City of Cincinnati.” Also, applicants will need to submit evidence showing that all permits related to the renovations are closed. Applicants may obtain such evidence here. Finally, applicants will need to submit a document evidencing the costs of the renovations. Such evidence should be in the form of a notarized list indicating (i) the general categories of the work completed; (ii) the date such work was completed; and (iii) the expenses, including costs of labor, associated with each category of work completed.

Timing of the Application

Under the CRA Tax Abatement Program, the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office can set a CRA Tax Abatement Period for, at most, ten years, unless homeowners comply with LEED, LBC, or HERS standards, which are not discussed herein. That said, under the CRA Tax Abatement Program, the applicant cannot apply for the abatement until renovations are complete, and the CRA Tax Abatement is not applied to the residential structure until the application has been submitted.  Despite those rules, the abatement period begins when the renovations are commenced. Furthermore, it might take the City of Cincinnati eight weeks to respond to the application. As such, an applicant should complete their renovations and apply as quickly as possible to avoid missing out on their CRA Tax Abatement period.

Calculation of the Abatement

The Hamilton County Auditor’s Office recently started calculating CRA Tax Abatements under the “Percentage Method.” Under the Percentage Method, the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office determines a homeowner’s CRA Tax Abatement amount by dividing the contributed value of all the improvements, at the time construction began, by the value of the home without improvements. The purpose of the Percentage Method is to provide homeowners with a percentage that remains consistent, despite changes in home values.

Before the Percentage Method, the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office calculated CRA Tax Abatements under the “Beginning Value Method.” Under the Beginning Value Method, the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office determined a homeowner’s CRA Tax Abatement amount by subtracting the value of the home without improvements from the contributed value of all the improvements, at the time construction began. The Beginning Value Method created an issue where homeowners were unable to truly appreciate the value of their CRA Tax Abatement, because, when their property value increased, the value of their abatements did not, leaving them with little tax liability savings.

Due to the foregoing issue, the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office reacted by creating the Percentage Method. Despite its best intentions, the Hamilton County Auditor’s Office did not provide for grandfather clause for the various homeowners, with CRA Tax Abatements, who were content with their CRA Tax Abatement Valuation. This gave rise to the issue first described in this blog post, which the Finney Law Firm resolved for similarly situated homeowners. So, if you are a similarly situated homeowner and need professional guidance on how to remedy such issue, call the Finney Law Firm, today!

There is a significant new development in Ohio property tax challenges directly and narrowly resulting from valuation reduction arising from the COVID-19 pandemic allowing such challenges this year.

As we discussed in a blog entry here, because of the unique timing of real property valuations versus billing, Ohio property owners impacted by COVID-19 rent reductions and closures really could not bring successful COVID-related valuation challenges before Boards of Revision in 2021.

To exacerbate that problem, Hamilton, Clermont, Butler and Montgomery Counties had the first year of the tax triennial in 2020 (for challenges in 2021). Therefore, if a property owner attempted a COVID valuation challenge in 2021 and lost, a property owner would be stuck with a bad (high) valuation for three years (tax years 2020, 2021 and 2022, billed and payable in 2021, 2022 and 2023).

This placed owners of certain properties in significant financial straits: Owners of apartment buildings near a university where student-based occupancy plunged or downtown when nearby office buildings cleared out, owners of large office buildings that could not rent because of COVID-related vacancies, owners of hotels and motels and other properties in the travel and hospitality industry, owners of restaurant properties and owners of malls and retail strip centers.

That all changed two weeks ago when Governor DeWine signed into law S.B. 57 which adds a second challenge period in 2021 narrowly targeted to COVID-related property valuation reduction (i.e., not that of general market conditions).

Here is the quick overview:

  • “Second bite” challenges may be filed with the Auditor only between July 26 and August 25, 2021.
  • “Second bite” challenges must narrowly be tailored to valuation reduction as a result of COVID-19.
  • The target valuation date for “second bite” valuations is October 1, 2020.
  • The “second bite” valuation reduction is retroactive to January 1, 2020 (before the pandemic hit America).
  • The “second bite” valuation reduction will last for the remainder of the triennial (in Hamilton, Clermont, Butler, and Montgomery Counties thru the 2022 tax year, billed and paid in 2023).
  • The bringing, and “win” or “loss,” of a valuation challenge for the “second bite” hearings is in addition to the general challenge filed before March 31, 2021 and does not prejudice non-COVID-related (i.e. general market conditions) challenges in later years.
  • The legal and evidentiary hurdles associated with “second bite” challenges are the same, as we see it, to challenges brought in Ohio, meaning an appraisal (supported by testimony from the appraiser) and presentation by a qualified attorney are strongly recommended.

If you have a “second bite” property that would benefit from a challenge narrowly targeted to COVID-19 economic impact, please quickly contact Chris Finney (513) 943-6655) or Casey Jones (513-943-5673) to allow us to help you secure this tax savings.

Every year, the Auditor of each of Ohio’s 88 counties publishes a chart like this showing the tax rates for each taxing district in each County.

In Hamilton County, there are 241 distinct taxing districts, each having a complex calculation to develop the net residential and commercial rates of taxation (taxing districts being greater in number than either municipalities and townships or school districts, because the boundaries of some frequently overlap one another). Here are the five highest commercial and residential taxing districts in Hamilton County:

Highest Commercial rates
MunicipalityTownshipSchool DistrictCommercial millageCommercial percentage
WyomingSpringfieldFinneytown135.544.765%
ColombiaMariemont131.3564.618%
SpringfieldFinneytown128.5894.521%
Lincoln HeightsPrinceton123.754.351%
Mt. HealthySpringfieldMt. Healthy121.6654.277%
Highest Residential rates
MunicipalityTownshipSchool DistrictResidential millageResidential percentage
Lincoln HeightsPrinceton111.4663.919%
WyomingSpringfieldFinneytown110.3443.879%
Mt. HealthySpringfieldMt. Healthy104.6193.678%
SpringfieldFinneytown103.3943.635%
Golf ManorCincinnati101.263.560%

As you can see, several Hamilton County commercial districts well exceed 4.0% in annual tax rates (approaching 5.0%) and the highest residential rates are bumping up against the 4.0% threshold.

 

Today, Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes joined Finney Law Firm Chris Finney at a webinar hosted by the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors to educate the public on “Ohio Property Tax Valuation Reduction.” Our thanks go to Auditor Rhodes and Christy Beaver, Director of Education the Board, for organizing and hosting this course.

Here is a link to the video. Please feel free to share it.

If our Property Tax Valuation Group can be of assistance to you, please contact Casey Jones (513.943.5673).

Tax bills are hitting mailboxes next week in Hamilton County and in them entirely new valuations. This year, every property in Hamilton, Butler, Clermont and Montgomery Counties will have wholly new valuations. We have written on these new valuation changes here and here, including a free “how-to” webinar.

On January 19th from 10 AM to noon, Finney Law Firm founder, attorney Chris Finney, with teach a free seminar on property tax valuation reduction with Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes for the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors.  Auditor Rhodes has been gracious to co-teach these classes providing the public information on valuation reductions with Chris Finney for a decade.  Anyone can log in for the course: business owners, individual property owner, Realtors, etc.

The link for sign ups for the seminar is here.

There is a flurry of concern arising from the notices hitting mailboxes in Hamilton County from County Auditor Dusty Rhodes telling property owners of their new valuations for the 2021 tax bills. The notice shows the prior 2019 value (2020 tax bill) of your home or business property and your new 2020 valuation (2021 tax bill).

The valuation increases average 15%, but some property owners we are hearing from are seeking hikes more than 25% on specific properties.

Naturally, taxpayers are assuming that means their tax bill will in fact go up that same percentage. But that actually is not so, not at all. Let us explain:

  • The simplistic formula for determining your tax bill is: Property tax = property valuation * tax rate for more than 15 tax levies. Then take the sum of each of those individual calculations. The sum of these individual levy calculations plus a “kicker” for something called “inside millage” for the City, Village or Township and the School District — less a host of credits and adjustments — equal your tax bill. (The inside millage is about 10% of your total tax rate.)
  • Other than the inside millage, most (not all) of the levies generate a fixed, flat amount of income each year for the tax entity (for example, $10 million per year for a school operating levy or $15 million per year for a mental health levy). Saying it another way, total levy revenue for most levies does not rise or fall based on fluctuations in total valuations — it by law stays constant year after year.
    • On the other hand, that very small part of your tax bill that is inside millage does rise proportionately with your valuation.
  • That annual fixed revenue amount from most levies is generated from the total of the valuations in that taxing jurisdiction, i.e., the sum of valuation of all properties (let’s call this the tax base) in the political and taxing jurisdiction in question (say, a school district).
  • Thus, the rate for each individual levy is — in a simplified sense — the fixed annual sum generated from the tax divided by the tax base that changes from year to year, usually upward, but occasionally downward.
  • What this means is that as the value of all properties in a taxing jurisdiction rise, the rate drops by the same ratio (except the inside millage and a few other exceptions).
  • Therefore, if the average valuation increase in Hamilton County is 15%, then the tax rate on average should be dropping about 10-12%. Thus, the real increase in your actual taxes paid should only be around 3-5%.
  • Now, two more cautions:
    • If your tax valuation went up more than the average for the political and taxing jurisdiction in question, your tax hike will be more than that 3-5%. So, if you were unfortunate enough to get one of those 25% hikes, your taxes will indeed go up another 10% or more.
    • The other factor that impacts the taxes that you pay is the tax rate, so if your school district or City had a property tax hike (because of COVID, there were a remarkably low number of levies on the ballot this fall), your taxes may rise as a result of the as well.
  • As you can see from this blog entry, the calculation of your tax bill involves dozens if not hundreds of individual calculations. The bills are tremendously complicated. But these overarching principles do apply, and therefore most taxpayers will not see tax increases anywhere near the whopping valuation hikes they are seeing on these recent Auditor notices.

We hope that gives property owners some comfort that these preliminary notices do not reflect the actual hike in your taxes coming in January.

County Auditors in Ohio are required by law to re-value every parcel of real estate in their County every three years. The cycles differ by county, but for Hamilton, Butler, Montgomery and Clermont Counties, the next revaluation comes out on the January 2021 tax bills.  This means that for those  counties (and certain others in Ohio), the value stated on every tax bill in the January 2021 tax bills should be new for almost every property owner. Dusty Rhodes, the Hamilton County Auditor has sent new valuation notices to each property owner, and those have been arriving this week. As a result, our phones are really starting to ring.

The Enquirer today reports that Hamilton County property values have spiked 15% from the 2018 values here.

Yesterday, we wrote this blog entry: All the info you need to know on property tax valuation issues in Ohio. Click for more information.

Finally, the Cincinnati Area Board of Realtors is hosting a free seminar featuring Christopher Finney and Hamilton County Auditor Dusty Rhodes on the property tax valuation reduction process. The public is invited to attend.  Click here to register to get a link for that seminar.

Contact Chris Finney (513.943.6655) or Casey Jones (513.943-5673) for more information on reducing your property taxes.

Tax bills in Hamilton County will be mailed on January 7 and are due February 1. Nonetheless, the County Auditor has sent out notices to homeowners in December as to the new valuation of properties that will appear on the January tax bills. Since the January 2021 tax bills represent the start of a new tax triennial, every property owner in Hamilton, Butler and Clermont Counties will get new valuations in those upcoming tax bills. As a result, our phones are starting to ring about help with property tax valuation reductions.

If you are thinking about challenging your property’s tax valuation, below are linked two blog entries with lots of information on the wisdom of taking such a path, and the detailed procedures for doing so. One of them has an instructional video on tax valuation reduction in Ohio.

Ohio and Kentucky property tax valuation challenges vexing in 2021

’tis the season for property tax valuation reduction (with How To video)

Contact Chris Finney (513-.943.6655) or Casey Taylor (513.943.5673) for information on how we can help get your property taxes reduced.

 

 

 

To appeal your taxes or not appeal your real property taxes, that is the question.

For some property investors, 2020 has been a difficult year: Many retail properties, hotels and office buildings have suffered from high vacancies, high rental defaults, and slow-to-no calls from new tenants. For these categories of income-producing properties, the enormous challenges presented by COVID-19 seem to have caused a significant reduction in property values.

Thus, it makes perfect sense to challenge those values in 2021, right?

Well, not so fast. Here are some considerations:

State of Ohio

  • Tax valuation challenges filed in Ohio in 2021 are for tax year 2020, and the “tax lien date,” the target date for valuation decisions is January 1, 2020.
  • That is, of course, months before the deleterious effects of COVID-19 impacted the USA real estate market.
  • Therefore, an Ohio property owner is likely to lose a valuation challenge brought in 2021 based primarily or solely upon a downturn starting in March of April of 2020.
  • Even worse, a property owner is entitled to bring tax valuation challenges only once in a “triennial,” the 3-year cycle which Ohio uses for Board of Revision cases.
  • Hamilton County, Clermont County, Butler County, Franklin County (Columbus) and Montgomery County (Dayton) all start new triennial cycles in tax year 2020. This means that if a property owner brings and loses a tax valuation challenge brought in calendar year 2021 in those counties, the valuation by law must stay in place through tax year 2022 (first challenged again in 2023).
  • On the other hand, if a property owner waits until first quarter of 2022 to file a challenge (for tax year 2021) in those counties, he will have a much stronger basis for valuation reduction (valuation target date is then January 1, 2021).
  • On the other hand, Warren County, Lucas County (Toledo), Stark County (Canton) and Cuyahoga County (Cleveland) (among others) are in their last year of the triennial in 2020, meaning a property owner can bring a complaint in 2021 (win or lose) and then turn around and bring a fresh challenge in 2022.

So, an Ohio property owner should carefully consider whether to bring a 2021 challenge. It could bring great rewards or lock in an articificllay high value for three years, potentially unnecessarily.

State of Kentucky

Kentucky is an entirely different matter. Challenges of value — which are started by PVA meetings the first two weeks of May — in 2021 are for tax year 2021. Thus, the full impact of COVID-19 on property values are at issue in challenges in 2021. It is much more straightforward.

Conclusion

For assistance with an Ohio or Kentucky property tax valuation matter, contact Casey Jones (513.943.5673) or Chris Finney (513.943-6655).

 

 

 

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