August 21, 2019

Colorado Court of Appeals: Assessor Authorized to Reevaluate Property in Non-Tax Year if Original Assessment Incorrect when Originally Done

The Colorado Court of Appeals issued its opinion in Thibodeau v. Denver County Board of Commissioners on Thursday, August 23, 2018.

Revaluation of Taxes—Incorrect Original Valuation—Equal Protection—Colorado Constitution’s Uniformity Clause.

Thibodeau purchased a residence in 2013. Earlier that year, the property was valued at $803,800 for ad valorem tax purposes. In 2014, it was revalued at $1,169,700. Thibodeau unsuccessfully protested the increase with the City and County of Denver Assessor’s Office before petitioning for abatement from the Denver County Board of Commissioners, sitting as the Denver County Board of Equalization (BOE). He argued that it was error to reassess the property in an intervening year because no unusual condition existed. The BOE rejected his claim and upheld the reassessment.

Thibodeau appealed to the Board of Assessment Appeals (BAA), which concluded that the mischaracterization of the property’s condition as average, rather than good, had led to an incorrect 2013 assessment, and therefore the assessor was permitted to correct the assessment in the intervening year.

On appeal, Thibodeau argued that the BAA erred in upholding the reassessment because C.R.S. § 39-1-104(11)(b)(1) only allows redeterminations in intervening years when unusual conditions exist, and no unusual conditions existed. C.R.S. § 39-1-104(11)(b)(1) authorizes assessors to correct incorrect property assessments in intervening years to set the value at what it would have been set in the assessment year had the mistake not occurred. Further adjustments cannot be made absent proof of an unusual condition. Here, the assessor’s records indicated that the property had not been remodeled since its construction in 1938. But after the assessment was completed in 2013, the property was listed for sale with pictures and a description showing renovations and remodeling. Thibodeau did not present evidence that the BOE’s corrected value was incorrect. Conversely, there was competent evidence that the original assessment was incorrect due to a misidentification of the condition of the property. Accordingly, the assessor was permitted and required to correct the assessment in 2014.

Thibodeau also argued that the BOE’s off-cycle reassessment violated the Equal Protection Clause of the U.S. Constitution. Here, no fundamental right or suspect class was implicated. The assessment was based on discovery of an incorrect determination of the property’s condition, not because of the property’s sale, and similarly situated properties also undergo the sales verification process. The court of appeals found no equal protection concerns.

Thibodeau further argued that the revaluation violated the Colorado Constitution’s Uniformity Clause. The protections of this clause are coextensive with the federal Equal Protection Clause, and because there was no equal protection violation, this argument failed as well.

The order was affirmed.

Summary provided courtesy of Colorado Lawyer.