IMPORTANT: This guidance is updated frequently; however, you should always follow guidance issued by the Governor’s Executive Order via the Agency of Commerce and Community Development, and the Department of Health.
Due to the delays and challenges towns are facing with the COVID-19 virus, the Director of Property Valuation and Review (PVR), is allowing an extension for all towns upon request to file their 2020 abstract grand list to August 15 (32 V.S.A. § 4342). Please remember your value and ownership date remains as April 1 (grand list effective date according to 32 V.S.A. §4041), and you should not reflect changes after that point (permits, Property Transfer Tax Returns, etc.).
This does not mean you have to wait until this date to file your abstract. If you have completed your work, we would recommend you file sooner, and the ideal would be to complete it as soon as possible. All towns will be subject to this date with no more extension unless extreme scenarios arise. Assuming a town has completed and submitted an extension request, then the August 15 Lodging of the Grand list with the Tax Department has been extended one month and will now be due on September 15.
If you choose to use this extension of time, you need to officially request permission from the director, please be aware that this will affect all subsequent dates including tax billing. Grievances will proceed with the same statutory timeframe from whatever date you lodge the abstract (see lister calendar and grievance guidance), and tax bills will subsequently be issued at a later date - assuming your town normally bills in July or August. In other words, if you take advantage of the extensions, you must ensure each of your subsequent timelines fall within the statutory deadlines required.
You should discuss this with your town selectboard and treasurer.
Sample extension timeline if full extension time is used:
Created by PVR 5/20/2020
August 15 (instead of June 4) file abstract (originally May 5- extended by 4341 to June 4/ 4151 refers to June 25 which was the date for larger towns without an extension of any kind)
Extended by the Director under 4342 to the latest being August 15 for 2020 Notices must be mailed 14 days prior to grievance per 4111 (e)/ 4115 reads 15 days/ public noticing for two weeks per 4116
If August 15 then grievances would be no sooner than August 30 (4221 says no later than June 2 but that is without any extensions)
In theory the grievance would be complete in one day BUT accordingly to 4222 grievances must continue until all are heard so there is potential for it to be more than one day.
Result of Grievance - mailed 7 days after end of grievance- (4224- date given is June 9 but that is without any extensions). Assuming grievance hearings were completed in one day then results would be mailed by September 6.
BCA appeal request would need to be filed with the clerk within 14 days (4224/4404)- September 20.
BCA Appeal Hearing – (4404) – first organizational meeting to start with 14 days of last date to file an appeal- October 4. Hearings occur going forward until all are heard- each inspection committee has 30 days to report back and the decision should be reported within 15 days from that.
Your district advisor is available for questions, or you can call the main line at (802) 828-5860, ext. 3. See the list of district advisors.
Our recommendation for this year is that no internal inspections occur. This does not mean your grand list should not be adjusted due to new construction, permits, etc. Instead, what it does mean is that you should develop an alternative plan to gain information in order to be fair to all taxpayers. We recommend you send a mailer to explain changes to all property owners that have changes. It is our opinion that full disclosure is best, explaining the situation and asking for assistance. We recently shared on the listserv a sample letter and form developed by one of our towns. See Permit Letter Sample (Under Construction Letter).
Extended Filing Dates
Many of you have asked about an extension to the April 1 date. This is the effective date for values and ownership in your grand list. This will not change. This does not mean you need all your grand list work done by that date. The dates your grand list should be completed are currently June 4 and June 24 (depending on your town population). Towns may request an extension to these dates according to 32 V.S.A. § 4342).
Homestead declaration and income sensitivity payment application form deadlines have been extended to July 15. This means towns will have more changes to homesteads to process later than normal. The process is no different other than the dates. We anticipate that statewide education property tax rates will be published soon after July 1st as normal, but towns might consider pushing back bill printing and the first payment due date, since 15%-25% of homestead declarations and property tax credit claims will not be available until August 1. The delay in homestead information is because the personal income tax deadline was extended from April 15th to July 15th this year, and many taxpayers are taking advantage of the extension.
All towns should have receive a complete inventory for each public utility located within your town. Please speak with your district advisor if you are missing one and to review values of all for equalization.
Please see the Vermont Department of Taxes Grievance Hearings procedures as of May 20, 2020, as recommend by PVR. The recommendations include remote hearing options and in-person hearing management.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can towns still charge a penalty for late-filed homestead declarations after April 15?
We have heard that some towns are continuing to tell taxpayers that the deadline for timely filed homestead declarations is April 15, 2020 and that those received after that date will be assessed a penalty by the town. This is not the case.
As a function of Vermont law, the change in the federal personal income tax due date automatically moved the due date for the Vermont Homestead Declaration and Property Tax Credit Claim to July 15. The Tax Department will therefore mark all Homestead Declarations received on or before July 15th, 2020 as timely, and the towns cannot charge a late penalty for all filings received up to the July 15th due date.
Will the grand list filing dates be extended?
PVR is offering the option for extension of the deadline to file initial (“abstract”) grand lists for all towns to August 15 (32 V.S.A. § 4342). This is a deadline for preliminary or “abstract” grand list (before grievance). Many towns will not want to wait this long, and we encourage you to do your best to file as soon as possible.
Towns should have received a standard letter from PVR. If you chose to take advantage of this extension, you should have the Selectboard chair sign the letter, keep a copy to record in your town records and send a signed copy back to PVR.
Towns who extend their filing to this date will not be granted additional extensions unless extreme scenarios arise. Assuming a town has completed and submitted an extension request, then the August 15 Lodging of the Grand list with the Tax Department has been extended one month and will now be due on September 15.
If you choose to use this extension of time, please be aware that this will affect all subsequent dates including tax billing. Grievances will proceed with the same statutory timeframe from whatever date you lodge the abstract. (see lister calendar and grievance guidance) and tax bills will subsequently be issued at a later date, assuming your town normally bills in July or August. In other words, if you take advantage of the extensions then you have to make sure that each of your subsequent timelines fall within the statutory deadlines required.
You should discuss this ahead of time with your town selectboard and treasurer.
PVR and VLCT recently held a live webinar and Q&A on Grievances in the COVID-19 era, see a list of questions and answers (pdf).
How will the extension of homestead affect the Grand List?
Homestead Declaration and Property Tax Credit Claim (income sensitivity payment) deadlines have been extended to July 15. This will mean towns will have more changes to homesteads to process later than normal. The process will be no different. There is the potential that Form HS-122 filings may cause additional change of appraisal notices; any change to a housesite or homestead value is in fact a grievable item. This would only be for new or changed business or rental use that you have not yet accounted for in prior years.
Will towns receive Property Tax Credit payment files each month?
Yes. The Department will still process Property Tax Credit claims and will send the files to towns monthly starting June 30 as usual.
How will tax billing be affected?
If you choose to use the grand list extension option, please be aware that this will affect all subsequent dates including tax billing. Grievances will proceed with the same statutory timeframe from whatever date you lodge the abstract (see lister calendar and grievance guidance), and tax bills will subsequentially be issued at a later date—assuming your town normally bills in July or August. These decisions must be made in partnership across the municipal officials in your office.
Select Boards may postpone collection dates for both the municipal property tax and the education property tax, reduce the municipal property tax rate, or change the penalties and interest associated with late property tax payments. These temporary relief measures can be approved by a majority vote of the select board in lieu of a town-wide vote. These provisions expire on January 1st, 2021. Act 102 of 2020.
Options for Towns:
- Proceed as planned with current timeline; and anticipate sending out corrected tax bills that will reflect homestead declarations, business use percentages and homestead property tax credits that come in with the extended income tax deadline;
- Delay sending out property tax bills until at least 8/1 when the Tax Department will have had the ability to process and furnish homestead declarations and homestead credit claims, and the Legislature, Agency of Education and Department of Taxes has established tax rates for each municipality; or
- Bill municipal taxes and education property taxes separately.
Towns should make these decisions (grand list filing, property tax bill printing, etc.) based on the needs and factors of your town.
How will we handle inspections of properties?
Our recommendation for this year is that no internal inspections occur. This does not mean your grand list should not be adjusted due to new construction, permits, etc. Instead, what it does mean is that you should develop an alternative plan to gain information in order to be fair to all taxpayers. We recommend you send a mailer to explain changes to all property owners that have changes. It is our opinion that full disclosure is best, explaining the situation and asking for assistance. See ‘Permit Letter Sample (Under Construction Letter).
How will we handle grievances?
Conducting a grievance hearing during the COVID-19 outbreak will be challenging. Social distancing is recommended to limit the spread of the virus. Because grievance hearings could potentially expose participants to the virus if held face to face, PVR recommends you follow the new protocols for grievance hearings held in 2020.
This will be updated to reflect any legislative changes.
What about extensions for personal property filings?
Because personal property is taxable only on the municipal side, this would be a town decision. Given the situation this year, it would be reasonable to extend the filing time.
Will we be able to e-sign documents?
Yes. Given the circumstances this is a reasonable accommodation.
Can I work as one lister, rather than a board of three, in light of COVID-19?
One lister can perform many of the daily duties required. Best practice would be to make changes and keep a record of changes so that a quorum of the lister board can agree. In today’s climate that might be accomplished by having a weekly meeting via Skype, Zoom, FaceTime, or other electronic means to review all work completed and agree to approve as a board. Minutes should be taken to make sure that these decisions and discussions are documented.
When do towns need to make payments to local school districts and the education fund?
Payments to local districts are still due 20 days after the tax due date – this has not changed. This means that a town that pushes its property tax due date back will need to navigate the change with any district to which it sends funds. Towns still must remit any delinquent payments to school districts within 120 days of the delinquency date and no later than the end of the school year. Payments to the education fund are still due on December 1st and June 1.
Is it true that towns can borrow funds?
The Vermont House and Senate have passed H. 951 which provides assistance to municipalities who which need to borrow to meet their education payment obligations. The program uses federal funds to cover the cost of the interest (but not the principal) incurred as a result of any borrowing. Applicable interest on any short-term borrowing required from March 1, 2020 and ending on December 30, 2020 may be reimbursed from the Municipal Emergency Statewide Education Tax Borrowing Program.