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Confused by Jackson County’s property-assessment process? Here’s how Missouri’s system works

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Posted at 10:49 AM, Jul 13, 2023

KANSAS CITY, Mo. — Roughly 30,000 appeals of Jackson County property tax assessments remain pending midway through July, but many taxpayers still have questions about how the assessment, appeal and taxation process works.

Here’s KSHB 41’s attempt to answer some common questions about the reassessment process.

Missouri’s state constitution requires counties to perform property reassessments in odd-numbered years.

The idea is to establish and adjust the fair-market value of each parcel to ensure that property owners are paying taxes based on a uniform and equitable system. Fairness in taxation is the ultimate goal.

But it’s merely the first step in determining what you’ll ultimately owe in taxes during a given year. Here’s how the system works:

Understanding your reassessment statement

Each county assessor’s office in Missouri is responsible for performing reassessments every two years.

The “Market Value Total,” also known as the fair-market value, is meant to reflect how much the property would fetch if it was put up for sale on the open market on Jan. 1 of a given tax year.

But taxpayers only pay taxes on a portion of the property’s value, known as the “Assessed Value Total.”

The percentage of fair-market value upon which taxes are paid depends on the subclass of the property.

In Missouri:

  • Residential property is assessed at 19%;
  • Agricultural property and vacant land is assessed at 12%;
  • Commercial property is assessed at 32%;

For a typical homeowner, the assessed value generally can be determined by multiplying the fair-market value by 0.19. The number produced by that calculation is the “Taxable Value Total.”
Here’s an example for a $200,000 home:

Market value total
Assessment rate
Assessed value total (AVT)
Tax rate, per $100 of AVT
Taxes owed

How much do I owe in taxes?

While the reassessment process determines how much of property’s value is taxable, the county assessor’s office doesn’t levy taxes.

The local governing bodies that are authorized to set a tax levy will meet as soon as August to set their 2023 tax rate, including any constitutionally required rollbacks to ensure that taxing jurisdictions don’t receive a windfall from rising property valuations.

Taxing jurisdictions must set and certify tax rates with their respective county clerk in September or October. Tax bills, which are due by Dec. 31, will then be prepared and sent to property owners.

Jackson County taxing entities almost certainly will be required to reduce their tax levy for 2023 to comply with state law.

Local school districts usually have the highest property-tax rate, accounting for more than half and up to 75% of most property owners’ total tax liability.

Counties, cities, libraries, fire-protection districts, Metropolitan Community College and other entities also can levy taxes. The state also collects money for handicapped and mental health programs as well as the blind pension fund.

Will I owe more in taxes this year?

Maybe, but until the yearly tax rates are set (and later verified by the Missouri State Auditor’s Office), it’s impossible to say with certainty how much will be owed in property taxes.

However, Jackson County Assessor Gail McCann Beatty has said the average fair-market value for properties in her jurisdiction have gone up 30%, so we can make some assumptions based on that figure.

If your reassessed property value went up more than 30%, you likely will see a tax increase. But if it went up less than 30%, you may actually wind up with a net property-tax decrease, depending upon the school district where you live.

Monitor the agendas and minutes for your local school district school board in August and September for an idea of how much the tax levy will be reduced for the 2023 tax year.

Be warned: If your taxes are paid from an escrow account, your mortgage company will probably increase your monthly payment in the event of a projected increase in property taxes. Homeowners usually have the option to pay the calculated difference and keep the same monthly payment or have that amount spread over 12 monthly installments.

What if I disagree with my reassessment?

You have three reassessment appeal options in Jackson County — an informal appeal, which can include an interior inspection of any structure on the property if certain conditions are met; a formal appeal to the county board of equalization, or BOE; and an appeal to the Missouri State Tax Commission.

To schedule an appeal, there is a phone number to call 877-895-9675, but it’s been plagued by long wait times and dropped calls.

The best option is to create an account on the Jackson County website and schedule an appointment online.

The Jackson County Assessor’s Office, which extended the appeal deadline three weeks to July 31, is no longer accepting walk-in appointments.

To file a formal appeal with the Jackson County BOE, property owners must use the same online system or roll the dice with the phone number.

If, and only if, a property owner has gone through the formal BOE appeal process at the county level and remained unhappy with the reassessed value, an appeal can be made to the state tax commission.

What do I need to dispute the assessed value?

Step one in fighting a reassessment is determining what you believe the correct fair-market value should be.

The best way for a homeowner to establish the fair-market value is by using data of comparable home sales in your area that have recently sold. There is no better indicator of market value than what the property fetched on the open market.

A real-estate agent can help you compile that information.

You should then go through and note things that might impact the fair-market value of your home.

Think like a home buyer and consider the things that would give a prospective buyer pause — outdated and shoddy kitchen cabinets and counters, worn carpet, chipped paint, issues with concrete driveways and stairs. etc.

You should also consider other issues that would need to be repaired in preparation for a sale. The things that often come up on a home inspection or appraisal — a cracked foundation, a worn-out roof, drafty old windows, a deck with wood rot, etc.

Compile that information and upload it, including photos, with your appeal. It wouldn’t hurt to take a physical copy to your informal appeal or BOE appeal.

Remember, the condition of the property isn't the only factor in determining value. Real estate values generally go up over time, so a home with no major improvements in the last decade probably is still worth much more than it was in 2013 via standard inflation of home and property prices.

Have Jackson County properties been historically undervalued?

McCann Beatty has repeatedly claimed that properties in Jackson County have been undervalued for a prolonged amount of time.

KSHB 41’s analysis of assessed-value data during the 21st century supports her claim.

We examined the Missouri State Auditor’s reports for each year from 2000 to 2022, the last year for which final data is available.

Jackson County has more property and a significantly higher assessed value than Cass, Clay and Platte counties.

But Jackson County’s valuations haven’t increased at anywhere near the same rate as surrounding counties, which suggests that property valuations have been lagging.

Since 2000, the aggregate assessed value of all property in Jackson County essentially has doubled, but property values during that same span are up 185% in Platte County, 154% in Cass County and nearly 140% in Clay County.

Jackson County has tried to play catch up in the last four years, including the largest jump in aggregate assessed values for any county in Missouri in 2019.

Is this different from my personal property tax?

Yes, Missouri residents also must pay yearly taxes on certain other types of non-real estate property — including vehicles, boats, some farm equipment, etc.

Those tax bills are sent in the winter and due by the end of the year. They are separate from real-estate property taxes, which often are held in escrow (along with insurance premiums) and paid by a homeowner’s mortgage company.