As published in National Real Estate Investor, January 1999

 

Property taxes are one of the largest expense items on any real estate company’s operating statement. However, little emphasis has been given to controlling that expense, and thereby, increasing net asset and portfolio value. American Property Tax Counsel (APTC) was formed to focus on reduction of property taxes. APTC is the only organization of law firms providing major portfolio owners across the United States and Canada with a single source for all of their property tax reporting and tax reduction needs.

It has been proven time and again that clients obtain optimum property tax reductions only by utilizing local tax counsel. The reason is clear. Property tax laws differ significantly from state to state. Thus, only local property tax lawyers possess the required experience in and knowledge of local procedures, policies and legal precedents. Also, it is becoming increasingly necessary to aggressively contest property tax assessments to higher levels of appeal, including the courts, in order to minimize tax liabilities. This is due to the pressure on local assessing authorities to increase revenues. Thus, APTC clients obtain tangible value from local, experienced legal counsel who are powerful advocates for their interests at all levels of appeal.

APTC’s program for handling multi-jurisdictional property portfolios is unique and simple. We thoroughly analyze clients’ data as well as market factors and legal arguments to determine which properties’ assessments should be appealed. The appeal process is managed by our local APTC member, a law firm preeminent in their knowledge of state substantive laws, and familiar with local procedures and assessors’ policies. APTC clients also have the availability of the state-of-the-art software, Property Tax Office (PTO), through MultiPoint National Property Tax Information. PTO provides a database for compliance, budgeting, tax projections, assessment information and appeal status on all properties.

APTC’s effectiveness for clients is enhanced by the sharing of non-confidential information throughout the organization. We exchange data regarding expert witnesses, case decisions and appeal strategies. In addition, we provide clients with annual educational seminars, which provide a platform for clients and attorneys to collaborate in developing new valuation methodologies for controlling property taxes. Our seminars have focused on shopping malls, hotel properties and office buildings.All APTC seminars are invitation only events.

A few examples of APTC’s significant tax savings for our clients include the following:

A $42 million tax refund on a Manhattan office tower. The state’s highest court affirmed this refund, a precedent setting decision on the tax ramifications of contamination.

A $29 million reduction on a resort hotel in Texas, awarded by a jury.

Reduced the market value assessment of a Seattle regional shopping mall from $144 million to $108 million after a national tax consultant was unsuccessful in previous years.

Utilizing the refined valuation methodologies established at the APTC Seminar on The Valuation of Hotel Properties, we successfully reduced the assessment of a Chicago hotel from $32 to $23 million. In the previous year, a tax consultant requested a reduction from $32 to $28 million and was denied any relief.

Successfully argued to the Ohio Supreme Court that a recorded purchase price, which was the result of an allocation of a portfolio purchase by a REIT, could not be used as a basis to increase the property’s assessment.

A law firm is admitted to APTC only after a determination is made by the Executive Committee and the general membership that the firm is the preeminent legal counsel in the property tax field in that particular state or jurisdiction. Criteria for membership includes years of experience, complexity of cases appealed, successful track record of reductions, real estate valuation acumen, articles written on property tax issues and peer recognition. More about APTC here