Frequently Asked Questions

Lister and Assessors

Assessing Property


Can two or more non-contiguous parcels (separate parcel IDs) be conveyed with one property transfer tax return?

Yes, use the value and category from the larger parcel when filling out your portion of the property transfer tax return. If two or more deeds are included in a single transfer to one or more parties, one PTTR may be filed to record the deeds. If the parcel(s) transferred lie in more than one city or town, a PTTR must be sent to each town clerk. Please attach the property information for any additional parcel(s).


Do comparable sales have to be from this town?

When looking for potential comparable sales for grievance and reappraisal purposes, you may not find suitable recent sales within your town. It is okay to use sales from nearby towns as long as that town’s real estate market is similar to yours. Look for sales from nearby neighborhoods that are similar in appeal and value to your subject property. The more unique the property, the farther you will likely have to go to find suitable comparables.


Do state and federal properties require a change of appraisal notice when values change?

No. See Determination of assessed values; appeal § 3704.


What is the best way to handle bank appraisals when presented as evidence of value?

It is a good idea to look at the appraisal to gauge its validity for use in the grievance process. Here are some suggestions for determining whether the appraisal contains helpful information:

  • Read the appraisal report and make note of items of interest
  • Run through the math to see if the adjustments are legitimate and correctly applied
  • Reviews the comparable sales used (Are they the best ones or are there better ones?) Look for items about the property that of which you were unaware of
  • Remember: a bank (or fee) appraisal was not written or intended for tax valuation purposes.

The property owner may not have obtained permission from the appraiser to use the appraisal in that manner. Bank appraisals can be good tools as a piece- of-the-valuation-puzzle, but you will need to confirm that the data and methods are correct. They should neither be automatically discounted nor automatically accepted.


What is the lowest amount cable can be depreciated?

Cable companies are only allowed to depreciate their inventory down 40%.


What is the most accurate choice for determining parcel size?

When you have discrepancies in various documents relating to parcel size, it is best to rely on the following documents:

  • A recorded survey by a qualified surveyor is almost always the most accurate and reliable evidence
  • Update property tax maps
  • Deed
  • Use the best evidence available.

What is the proper way to value excluded current use land?

Excluded land is to be valued as that portion’s fair market value. When determining that portion’s fair market value you will need to be familiar with accompanying maps and take into consideration factors such as grade, wet areas, access, zoning, etc. Contact your district advisor if you have any questions.


What should we do if qualified housing owners do not file?

Qualified Housing owners are obligated to file each year. If they do not, the value should be changed appropriately with a Change of Appraisal Notice being sent.


When should I update my Marshall & Swift books?

You should update when a reappraisal is completed. At the time of reappraisal the Marshall & Swift cost information will be updated in your computer assisted mass appraisal (CAMA) files. The Marshall & Swift books (residential and commercial) should reflect those new cost tables in your computer. Do not upgrade your books in between reappraisals. If you do and you use updated figures (for new construction, for example), you will be applying values inequitably since everyone else will have values based upon the date of the latest reappraisal.


Who determines the allocation if a homestead is in more than one town?

Discuss this with the listers in the other town(s) to determine percentages.


Why do we update electric utilities and cable every year?

These categories tend to have changes every year – extending lines, improvements, etc. Bring their values up to fair market value and apply the common level of appraisal each year. You will receive inventory documents from the state annually in May. Contact your district advisor if you need help.

Without building permits, how do I find out about who is working on their home?

Knowing when to inspect a property for improvements can be a challenge when the town doesn’t require building permits. Interior changes are the most challenging, as most towns don’t require permits for interior improvements that don’t affect the square footage of the building. Here are a few suggestions to find out about work being done:

  • Be observant as you drive around town. Look for clues such as construction dumpsters and construction vehicles.
  • Listen for construction projects around town.
  • Real estate ads will often list recent improvements.
  • Drive around all of your neighborhoods to observe new projects: decks, outbuildings, additions, pools, etc.

What constitutes contiguous property?

Contiguous property is any land under the same ownership that has a connection point. For example: if someone owns land on two sides of the road and the property would have a connection point if the road were not there, it is contiguous. This applies to land with railways, interstate roads, streams, rivers, etc. running through it. Even if the land would only touch at a short point, it is contiguous. If there is a lake in between two parcels, it depends upon the size of the lake, but the land would likely not be considered contiguous.


Should subsidized rental housing values be adjusted annually?

The Subsidized Housing valuation process was crafted to allow the value, once determined, to remain the same until and unless the town reappraised all properties. However, there is nothing to prohibit a taxpayer from requesting a new appraisal of the property. Further, the property can and likely should be revalued if there is a substantial change, such as additional units, accelerated depreciation, etc.


Should state and federal agencies be sent change of appraisal notices?

Assessed values set by state or federal agencies, by statute, do not require a Change-of-Appraisal notice.


How can I find comparable sales?

Here are some suggestions:

  • Ask local real estate agents and check out real estate web sites; some have sold properties lists.
  • Ask other listers, especially when looking for unique properties such as gravel pits.
  • Check out the Northern New England Real Estate Network (MLS).
  • Click on the Sold Properties tab to initiate a search.
  • Stay up to date on real estate ads and publications – become familiar with what is for sale in your area. When sales do occur, you may already be familiar with the property.
  • Property transfer web sites: Following a town clerk’s portal with searchable transfers.
  • There are commercial sites that offer PTTR information subscriptions.
  • Try doing a web search.
  • Appraisers probably frequent your office – ask them for suggestions, as they usually have a good amount of comparable sales data.

Please note: Some towns have assessment information and property record cards on-line. This can be a quick way to check out property features to see if they are similar to your subject property.


Are fiber optics taxable?

Yes, fiber optics are taxable and would be listed on the utilities inventory form.


Are fuel storage tanks real or personal property? (trade fixture vs. real estate improvement)

It depends, trade fixtures are classified as the personal property of the owner installing them; they retain their chattel (an object of movable quality) character regardless of annexation. Elements for a trade fixture are:

  • Annexed to realty by the tenant.
  • Enables the tenant to carry on the trade or enterprise addressed by the tenancy contract.
  • Can be removed without material or permanent injury to the freehold (see Powell’s Treatise on Property, Section 57.06).
  • An intention that the annexation was not meant to be permanent.

Business personal property § 3618 Business personal property" means tangible personal property of a depreciable nature used or held for use in any trade, business, professional practice, transaction, activity, or occupation conducted for profit including all furniture and fixtures, apparatus, tools, implements, books, machines, boats, construction devices, and all personal property used or intended to be used for the production, processing, fabrication, assembling, handling, or transportation of anything of value, or for the production, transmission, control, or disposition of power, energy, heat, light, water, or waste. "Business personal property" does not include inventory, or goods and chattels so affixed to real property as to have become part thereof, and which are therefore not severable or removable without material injury to the real property, nor does it include poles, lines, and fixtures which are taxable under sections 3620 and 3659 of this title. So, if a fuel storage tank is owned by the owner of the real estate and is affixed in a permanent manner to the real estate, it is real property.


Are inventory forms public records?

No, inventory forms, both utility and personal property, are not available for public viewing.


How do I determine the taxability of cellular, radio and communication towers?

See Decision Tree

Buying And Selling Property


If a town purchases property after April 1st, how do they do handle taxes?

The property is taxable as of April 1st and needs to stay listed as such. The town should base their tax rate on not owning the property. The town can abate the taxes on the property if they choose.


Is the sale date the recording date or the closing date?

The Division of Property Valuation & Review recommends using the recording date, although towns should determine which they will use and remain consistent with that method. One disadvantage of using the recorded date is that a sale could have closed years ago and has only recently been recorded. Calling that the sale date would be misleading, and the market could have changed significantly between the closing and recording dates.


Can a new owner appeal the value of property purchased after April 1st?

Because values are established as of April 1st and the tax bills are issued to the owner of record as of April 1st, only the seller can appeal. However, the seller can designate the new owner as agent to the seller. As agent, the buyer can participate in the grievance by acting on behalf of the owner of record. The seller can submit a signed letter to the Board of Listers stating that he or she wishes to designate the buyer as his or her agent in the grievance process.


Our town has erroneously been collecting taxes on a parcel that transferred to a different owner over a year ago. the transfer was confusing and the parcel didn’t get processed correctly, what should we do?

First, it should be noted that it is the taxpayer’s responsibility to keep track of their holdings and assessments annually; there is a shared responsibility on the part of listers and taxpayers to review an assessment. Assuming the general ledger books have been closed out each year with a Certificate of No Appeals or Suits Pending (Form 4155), there is no recourse for the taxpayer to go back in time to recoup payments. Similarly, the time for errors and omissions would have passed on December 31st. The only possibly recourse for the taxpayer is to request a Board of Abatement hearing. They could argue that a mistake was made and ask for compensation of taxes paid in error. Many Boards of Abatement are reluctant to go back further than one year, as anything more than that could create a potential opening for any number of claims.


A property owned by a veteran on April 1st sells April 12th, can the Veteran’s exemption be removed since it is prior to the May 1st filing deadline?

If a veteran owns property and resided there on April 1st the exemption stays and can be dealt with at closing if the parties choose. If a veteran sells after April 1st they cannot get the exemption on a different property that year – the exemption is for the property they owned and resided in on April 1st.

Exemptions


A Veteran just had a rental house built on his property, how does this affect his exemption amount?

It should not affect his exemption amount. Example: If your town does a $40,000 exemption and the veteran’s land and trailer was worth $38,000. The new house value will not be taken into account to go beyond the $38,000 exemption. The exemption would remain at the cap of $38,000.


Does a qualified housing building automatically retain its exemption after transfer to a new owner?

No. See tax stabilization agreements; tax increment financing districts 32 VSA § 5404a.


Do properties leased by a non-profit corporation or town qualify for a tax exemption?

No, privately held property needs to be owned by a non-profit entity in order to pass qualification for exemption, even if a lease limits the property to public use.


How should we account for railroad property?

We advise you to code railroad parcels as N in the Tax Status field. This will signify that the property is nontaxable. Also use code number 22 in the Nontax Statute field to note the correct statutory exemption.

Grievance and Appeals


Can property owners submit new evidence at board of civil authority (BCA) or state level?

Yes, they don’t have to use any of the evidence submitted during lister level grievance if they don’t want to. Each hearing is considered "de novo," meaning "new."


Can we make house visits the night of grievance hearings?

Yes, as long as it doesn’t mean that you are not in the office during the times you posted for grievance.


Upon winning a tax appeal, should the taxpayer get credit for the prior years’ taxes?

No. See tax stabilization agreements; tax increment financing districts 32 VSA § 5404a No, an appeal by a taxpayer of the listed valuation is a challenge of the current year’s tax bill.


Is the use value change a grievable item?

If you change nothing on your Use Value records and the only thing that is different in a new year is the common level of appraisal (CLA) and the Current Use per acre value, you are not obligated to send a change of allocation notice. Some listers send notices to all Current Use owners for the use change because it shows their updated taxability and then they can’t come back to the listers and say they weren’t notified. Property owners receive use value change notices from the Current Use Department. Allocation is a grievable item and the property owner should receive a notice when you change allocation amounts.


Is a town obligated to pay interest on tax credit from an appeal?

When the appraised value of a property on appeal has been reduced, a taxpayer is entitled to a credit against the tax for the next ensuing tax year and for succeeding years if required to use up the amount of the credit. If the town has voted to collect interest on overdue taxes, a taxpayer will also become entitled to interest at that rate on his or her overpayment.


If someone walks into our office on grievance day, do we have to hear them?

Yes, provided that they give you a written and signed piece of paper stating that they want to grieve. You will be obliged to schedule a time to hear them.


How long does the state board value have to stay?

The state board decision stays for three years unless:

  • You do a reappraisal within that timeframe
  • There is a major change to the property

Lister Roles and Responsibilities


Can spouses be listers on the same board?

In Vermont, spouses can work together as listers on the same Board. However, if either grieves, the third lister and/or a paid consultant should be responsible for addressing and determining the grievance outcome, not either spouse.


Can the property owner appeal a Homestead penalty to the listers?

The Select Board determines whether to assess the Homestead penalty in general. They can take a vote to decide whether to apply a penalty or not. For selective or hardship cases when the penalty has not been voted out, the Listers should pass the issue on to the Board of Civil Authority. It is not the Listers’ responsibility to determine who is responsible for paying the Homestead penalty.


Do listers need to obtain consent prior to inspecting real estate?

Listers absolutely need to obtain permission if: a. They have been put on notice by the owner (in person or via a communication). b. If there is “No Trespassing” signage posted at the property. 2. Although 32 V.S.A. § 4041 may appear to grant you authority to inspect a property, the prudent thing to do is to obtain permission from the property owner before attempting to enter upon and inspect real estate. Do not inspect the interior of a dwelling (or any other building that would commonly or reasonably be locked – whether or not it is locked) without appropriate permission.


Are things like draft cost sheets and listers’ notes considered to be public record?

The only things in listers’ files not considered public record are personal property information, income and expense information, and inventory forms. Temporary CAMA information (such as in a reappraisal, when a property record card is still subject to change) is subject to the public records law. If you provide someone with information that is subject to change, you should note that it is subject to change on their copy of the document. (To cover your bases you may want to photocopy what you give to people so you have proof that you wrote Subject to Change on their copy.)


What constitutes a public place for posting the “Notice To Taxpayers” document?

This notice needs to be posted in 5 public places (the Town Clerk’s office plus 4 others). The public places do not all have to be in your town, they can include neighboring areas that residents of your town frequent. The following examples are considered to be public places:

  • Town Clerk’s office (always post one here)
  • Grocery store bulletin board
  • Post Office
  • Outdoor public bulletin boards
  • Library
  • Gas station
  • Town website

How do we process a value change from a property appeal to a State Board of Court?

A copy of the decision goes in the listers’ file. Attach a copy to the back of the appeal year’s GL. Change your GL value for the current year and going forward. The decision will stand for: the appeal year and the next two years UNLESS you do a reappraisal. If they make improvements, you can add the improvements, but it would be wise to leave the other aspects of the valuation in line with the court or hearing officer’s decision. Accounting: Assuming the value was lowered by the decision, calculate the amount of overpayment (plus interest if applicable – see below) and then issue that as a credit against the next tax bill.


How can listers help to educate the BCA?

It is not the Listers’ job to teach the Board of Civil Authority to get up- to-speed on the valuation process, but it is sometimes advisable and/or necessary for towns to provide resources for the BCA. The Vermont League of Cities and Towns (VLCT) is a good place to start. Some towns have utilized the League’s attorneys in presenting BCA members with a seminar to explain the valuation and grievance process in order to help ensure fairness and equity.


How do I handle allocation changes after the grand list is filed?

32 V.S.A. § 4261. Correcting omission from grand list. When real or personal estate is omitted from the grand list by mistake, or an obvious error is found, the listers, with the approval of the Selectboard, before December 30, may supply such omissions or correct such errors and make a certificate thereon of the fact; provided, however, the listers may make a correction resulting from the filing or rescission of a homestead declaration without approval of the Selectboard. (Amended 2005, No. 38, § 14, eff. June 2, 2005.)

There is no specific errors and omissions form.


Can listers also be on the select board?

No. See 17 V.S.A. § 2647. Incompatible offices.


How should life estates be listed in the Grand List?

It is up to the listers. The Division of Property Valuation & Review recommends listing to the owner of the life estate with the words "life estate" in parentheses. Also, you could list the remaining owner on line #2. Consistency is key.

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