Property tax assessments on commercial properties that employers own and lease have to be fair and equitable in order to keep Connecticut’s businesses and economy competitive—and when that’s not the case, employers need to know that appeals under state law are also fair and equitable.

But just when we’re trying to make Connecticut more business-friendly, a bill before the Planning and Development Committee (HB 5183) will unfairly restrict a commercial taxpayer's access to counsel of its choosing in the appeal process.

Head to court

The appeal process usually starts with local Boards of Assessment Appeals.

BAAs, however, aren’t obligated to hear commercial property appeals when the property at issue is assessed at over $1 million.

Many BAAs throughout the state are summarily denying appeals without a hearing--often reluctant to make changes to the assessments for a variety of reasons.

As a result, many commercial property tax appeals have to be filed in court.

Good counsel

When taxpayers go to court to seek redress, they should have the ability to select competent counsel of their choosing and enter into a fee arrangement with that attorney who is suitable to them.

This may mean a fee calculated based on the outcome of the appeal, particularly when the need to challenge an inequitable assessment is unanticipated and unbudgeted.

HB 5183 imposes unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on the ability of commercial taxpayers to pursue equitable property tax assessments through the courts.
But HB 5183, unfairly blocks access to counsels of taxpayers’ choosing and the courts, because it:

  • Restricts the ability of certain commercial taxpayers to structure a contingent legal fee arrangement that reflects the unique facts and circumstances of their particular appeals as well as their business objectives
  • Doesn’t allow informed property owners to waive the restriction if they wish to do so

Many municipalities in Connecticut hire private firms or individuals to conduct business personal property tax audits on a contingent fee basis. This practice has raised serious concerns in the business community but continues without any restrictions.

It’s troubling that this practice is allowed to continue without any limitations while at the same time HB 5183 is working its way through the legislative process.

HB 5183 will impose unreasonable and unnecessary restrictions on the ability of commercial taxpayers to pursue equitable property tax assessments through the courts by having the assistance of experienced attorneys.

CBIA opposes the arbitrary and inflexible limitations contained in HB 5183.

For more information, contact CBIA’s Bonnie Stewart (860.944.8788) | @CBIAbonnie