What Is A Tax Assessor?

In the United States, a tax assessor is an elected or appointed local government official in a county, township, or municipality. Tax assessors are responsible for the administration of property taxes on all taxable real estate located within their jurisdiction. Depending on the locality, these duties may include setting property tax rates, appraising property values, collecting property taxes, and foreclosing on delinquent properties.

Depending on the size of your locality, your tax assessor's office may vary in size from a single part-time assessor to a office with a full-time, multi-person staff. In many localities, tax assessors must be certified and have professional experience in property valuation.

Tax Assessors Determine Property Valuations

In most areas, the primary job of the tax assessor is to determine the fair market valuation of each property on the tax rolls in his or her jurisdiction. When a new property is constructed (or an existing property is renovated), the tax assessor will base the initial property valuation on a certified property value appraisal provided by the property owner, or an appraisal carried out by the tax assessor themselves. Each year thereafter, the tax assessor may modify the appraised value of the house based on the current state of the housing market and the condition of the property.

Once the property assessment has been completed, the tax assessor will record the new valuation of the property in the county property tax rolls and inform the owner of the property of the new valuation.

Tax Assessors Compute Property Taxes

Based on the valuation of the property for each year, the tax assessor will be able to determine the property taxes due by applying the applicable property tax rate to the taxable portion of the property's valuation. Often, tax assessors set property tax rates as a mill rate (also known as a millage rate or mill levy).

The mill rate expresses the number of dollars due in property tax for each $100 of taxable property value. For example, in a locality with a property tax millage of 4.75, a property with a taxable valuation of $100,000 will owe $475 in property taxes.

Tax Assessors Collect Property Taxes

In some jurisdictions, tax assessors are also responsible for collecting owed property taxes. Property tax bills are sent by January 1st in many jurisdictions, and property taxes are payable in a single lump payment (or through a payment plan managed by the locality or a middleman like a mortgage company). If a property gets behind on tax payments or becomes delinquent, the tax assessor may work with the local sheriff to foreclose on the property in a tax sale.

Tax Assessors Handle Property Tax Protests

Sometimes, the property owner will disagree with the property valuation determined by the tax assessor. If the property owner submits an appeal to the assessor, the assessor (or in some localities a board of appeals or other official) will be responsible for considering the evidence provided and determine whether the current appraisal of the property in question is correct and fair based on the condition of the property and the local housing market.

If it is determined that the property has been incorrectly assessed, the tax appraiser will re-assess the property (taking any new information provided into account), and raise or lower the property taxes due on the property to reflect the new valuation. If the appeal is denied, and depending on the local appeal procedures, the assessor may have to handle a counter-appeal such as an appraisal review or a judicial appeal.

You can find the contact information for your local tax assessor in our tax assessor database.