2015 Property Values: Q&A with the King County Assessor

Q: How does the King County Assessor's Office determine property values, and where can I find more information?

A: Washington state law requires all assessors to value land as vacant first, and then analyze sales and market trends of a variety of properties based on size, year built, quality of construction, and other characteristics. The 2015 property values are set as of January 1, 2015, based on sales of comparable properties in the same area.

We annually value more than 700,000 King County properties and physically inspect one-sixth of them. You can find all market sales in our 2015 Area Reports and should visit LocalScape to search for area sales and individual property info.

Q: In this rising real estate market, will my property taxes increase at the same rate as my property valuation?

A: No. The Assessor's Office sets property valuations. It does not set taxes, and there is not an automatic percentage increase correlation between your property value increase and future property taxes.

King County taxpayers who need advice and assistance with property tax related matters, including appeals, should contact the King County Tax Advisor (206-477-1060 or taxadvisor@kingcounty.gov). There are three key factors that determine your tax rates:

  1. Total taxable property value in your community (including your property).
  2. Budgets adopted by your local governments—limited to one percent (1%) annual increase UNLESS …
  3. Voters approved measures.

Q: Are there limits to how much government entities can raise property taxes?

A: Yes, local taxing districts (such as cities, county, fire district, etc.) are limited to an annual one percent (1%) budget increase, plus new construction value—regardless of how much property values increase or decrease. For example, if a city receives $1 million in property taxes, it can only levy and receive $1.01 million the next year, plus revenue from new construction. The only exception occurs when voters approve measures.

Q: Who sets property taxes, and how are property tax dollars allocated?

A: The Assessor does NOT set property taxes. Each year, property taxes are determined by a combination of your state and local government (schools, roads, parks, libraries, hospitals, city, and county government), and your local taxing districts such as ports, fire districts, utility and sewer districts.

The King County Treasury's Office (NOT the Assessor) is responsible for collecting and distributing property tax revenue to state and local governments. In 2015, King County received 17.5 cents of every property tax dollar.

King County taxpayers who need advice and assistance with property tax related matters, including appeals, should contact the King County Tax Advisor (206-263-9700 or taxadvisor@kingcounty.gov).

Q: How do I request more information about the value placed on my property?

A: Property owners with questions for the Assessor's Office should contact us (206-296-7300 or Assessor.Info@kingCounty.gov). If you feel we have made an error in the characteristics of your property, you can request that the data be reviewed or explained by an appraiser and an Assessment Review can be initiated.

Q: How do I appeal the value of my property?

A: Appeals are filed with an independent agency of King County—the Board of Appeals and Equalization. The Board is made up of citizens who are not employees of King County and who are appointed by the King County Executive and confirmed by the King County Council. The goal of most appeals is to prove that the assessed value exceeds the fair market value as of January 1 of the assessment year and to provide sufficient evidence for the Board to determine what the most probable fair market value is. The Board's determination of fair market value can be more than, less than, or equal to the original assessed value.

Visit www.kingcounty.gov/appeals for additional information about the appeal process and for the resources to file either online using eAppeals or by paper using the downloadable forms.

For information about senior/disability property tax exemptions, read Are You Eligible for Property Tax Relief? in the August 2015 issue of AgeWise King County.

Contributor Lloyd Hara has served as King County Assessor since 2009. The Office of the King County Assessor handles assessments of more than 660,000 residential and commercial parcels in King County.