The Role of the County Appraiser
The appraisal of property, except for utility owned property, for the purpose of property taxes in Kansas is the responsibility of the County Appraiser. The position is created by state statutes and is filled by appointment of the Board of County Commissioners in each county. The term of the appointment is four years.
Two basic duties must be performed by each County Appraiser and his or her staff. First, all property within the county must be inventoried. The types of properties most commonly handled at the county level are real property and personal property. Real property is the land and all improvements permanently affixed to the land. Personal property consists of material assets that are not permanently affixed to land such as machinery and equipment, vehicles, boats, etc. In Kansas, gas and oil properties are treated as personal property for tax purposes.
The county mapping department inventories all real property and a permanent unique parcel identification number is assigned to each parcel. To assist with the inventory process, the County Appraiser’s department also develops a property description for each parcel that is solely used for tax appraisal purposes. It is sometimes different from the legal description recorded in the Register of Deeds’ office. When changes occur due to a sale of a portion of a parcel, parcel combinations or through new land plottings, new parcel numbers are assigned by the county’s mapping department.
For each parcel of land, the improvements, such as buildings, must be measured and described through on-site inspections by field appraisers. State statutes require that all properties be physically inspected and remeasured by an appraiser at least once in a six year period. This helps insure that all new construction and changes to existing improvements are discovered and added to the tax rolls. It also helps clean up the current data on the property should errors be found. The County Appraiser’s office also uses building permits, where available, to track new construction. Under current Kansas statutes, all real property is revalued annually.
For personal property, the State of Kansas uses a self-reporting system. In January of each year, the County Appraiser’s office mails out personal property renditions to individual taxpayers and businesses that have had personal property in the past. If taxpayers do not receive a rendition but they have an item of personal property such as a boat that needs to be rendered, they should contact the County Appraiser’s office and a rendition will be mailed to them.
The second of the appraiser’s duties is to value equitably and at fair market value all property identified as of January 1st of each year. This involves first determining if the property is taxable. Unless specifically exempted by the State of Kansas or by the State Board of Tax Appeals, all tangible assets, land and buildings and personal property in the state are taxable. Once the owner of the property is identified through the inventory process, the property must then be accurately valued at its fair market value. Fair market value is the amount of money a well-informed buyer and a well-informed seller would accept for property in an open and competitive market without any outside influence.
An important thing to remember is that appraisers do not create value. People determine value by their transactions in the market place. The appraiser simply has the legal responsibility to analyze those transactions and appraise individual properties based upon what is happening in the market place.
The appraiser’s office does not determine taxes, but instead determines only the market value of the property. The amount of taxes each taxpayer pays is determined by all the taxing agencies, i.e. city, county, school districts, etc. and depends on the amount of taxes needed to provide all the services the taxpayers require. The assessed value is determined by multiplying the fair market value of the property as determined by the County Appraiser’s office, by the assessment rate as outlined in the state constitution.