Sen. Shawn Keough, R-Sandpoint, has joined two other lawmakers to introduce legislation requiring that sales prices of Idaho real estate be disclosed confidentially to the county assessor. That’s not required now – even though assessors are, by law, supposed to assess property at fair market value. “Assessors are very hamstrung in their ability to determine market value, and have to rely on exquisite mathematical calculations,” Keough told the Senate Local Government & Taxation Committee. As a result, Keough’s home county, Bonner County, had 600 appeals of taxable values last year, as people objected to values that were calculated through mathematical “trending” formulas.
Sen. Lee Heinrich, R-Cascade, and Rep. Wendy Jaquet, D-Ketchum, are co-sponsoring the bill. Jaquet said in her district, “Many people in the very high-end homes are not paying their fair share, because the assessor isn’t getting accurate information.” Fewer and fewer of those high-end homeowners are voluntarily disclosing sales prices, she said.
The committee agreed unanimously to introduce the bill, and Chairman Brent Hill, R-Rexburg, said he’ll look forward to holding a hearing. “We may need to move to the Gold Room on this,” he said, referring to the capitol’s largest hearing room.
After the vote, Sen. David Langhorst, D-Boise, told Keough, “This is a big one – this takes a little gumption, so good for you.”
Keough co-chaired an interim committee on property taxes the summer before last that held hearings around the state. Though that panel didn’t endorse price disclosure legislation, Keough said she’s been hearing increasingly from property owners and local Realtors that price disclosure is needed to make taxable values more realistic and accurate. However, she said some large lobbying groups may oppose the bill. “My hope is that people on the ground and that the Realtors that support this will let their legislators know,” she said. Keough said she’s been hearing of high levels of discontent with Idaho’s market value-based property tax system, especially in high-value parts of the state, in recent years. She said, “If they can’t change the system, they especially want the system to be based on facts … instead of some wild guess.”