BLOOMFIELD, Mo. - Some Stoddard County residents may have seen an increase in their 2012 personal property tax statements which were mailed out late last week. The increases were primarily for owners of late model SUVs and pickup trucks, according to County Assessor Jody Lemmon.
Lemmon said several factors caused the increase. A different company was hired by the state to put together the book that sets the value of a vehicle. Also, the price of new and used vehicles has continued to rise after bottoming out four years ago. The county has not raised the assessments on vehicles since the market rebounded, says Lemmon.
In accordance with Missouri law, Lemmon uses National Automobile Dealers' Association (NADA) guidelines to assess vehicle property values. The NADA actually raised the value of many trucks and sports utility vehicles in 2009. The increases were not instituted in Stoddard County, says Lemmon.
In a letter reminding assessors of these statutory requirements, the State Tax Commission cited the rare occurrence of some vehicles - primarily trucks and sport utility vehicles (SUVs) manufactured after 2003 - increasing in value from October 2008 to October 2009. Higher gas prices depressed market demand for less fuel efficient vehicles in 2008. However, more stable prices at the pump and a recovering automobile sales market, especially for used vehicles, have helped drive the value of trucks and SUVs back up.
In a 2010 letter the State Tax Commission told assessors:
"It is the Commission's position that because the 2010 values are derived from the 2009 NADA's October 2009 Official Used Car Guide's trade-in values, assessors should follow the requirements of the statute and utilize the values provided in the Missouri Assessors' Association's State Valuation Guides. Using these NADA derived values will carry out the intent of the statute by ensuring that assessments for like vehicles will be fair and uniform throughout the state."
Lemmon explains that a group representing the NADA actually goes to auctions to record resale values on particular models and makes. The assessed value is based on findings of the group in October of each year. For 2012, the values were established in October 2011.
Personal vehicles are assessed at 33 1/3 percent of their value. Commercial property is assessed at 32 percent, residential property at 19 percent and agriculture at 12 percent of their value.
Lemmon says that the new company retained to input this information together opted to use the VIN numbers of the vehicle, instead of the six number code that was used previously. The VIN number is recorded with the State Department of Revenue and provided to the county. Lemmon and his staff spent considerable time entering these numbers into the county computer system. This provides the assessor with the exact model and options on each vehicle assessed in the county.
Lemmon says the county actually lowered assessments "when the market went south." The market began to rebound in 2009, but Stoddard County did not raise the 2010 assessments, nor did they increase in 2011. This year the county had to raise the assessments to meet state statutes.
"I held the assessments back for a couple of years to see if the market would go back down," says Lemmon. "Instead, the market has continued to go up."
Lemmon said the new system will be fairer for all taxpayers. Previously, personal property owners provided varying degrees of information, which led some property to be rated "unspecified." Two residents could have owned the exact make and model of vehicle, and yet be paying different personal property tax rates.
"This makes if fair for everyone," Lemmon states.