Property Tax: Managing real estate ownership expenses in Arizona

Property taxes are one of the main expenses of real estate ownership in Arizona. In today’s business climate, taxes are under the microscope more than ever as property owners and managers seek ways to reduce expenses. We are fortunate that Arizona has a tax valuation appeal system. The system allows property owners or their agents to file an appeal petition for review with the purpose of lowering property tax. 

Owners and managers know that property tax is habitually a component of common area maintenance expenses (CAM) and taxes affect an owner’s bottom line. Often an owner or manager faces difficulties in their ability to increase rental income rates as CAM allocations increase. Appealing the property tax value and achieving a valuation reduction can be key to reducing CAM expenses. 

Why?

This is because most tenants want to know what their total monthly lease payment will be when they sign a lease. They want to know their full obligation for rent in advance. For example, if a tenant can afford a total rent of $18/sq. ft. and the CAM charges are $4.00/ sq. ft., then the building owner collects a net amount of $14.00/sq. ft.  If CAM charges were to increase to $5.00/sq. ft., due to higher real estate taxes, it becomes uncertain whether the owner can increase or even maintain the same lease rental rate.  As a result, property taxes affect the owner’s bottom line. 

Meanwhile, the commercial and residential markets have been under severe distress during the last few years. The number of arms-length, market sales have significantly declined.  As a result, there are a reduced number of sales for the assessor to utilize to properly set property values. This makes it difficult for the assessor to properly value properties to reflect the current market value. Consequently, the assessor often focuses on older sales, even though this data does not necessarily accurately reflect the existing market (or lack thereof).

How it works

Every property owner should closely examine their 2014 valuation notices and consider whether an appeal would be warranted. The local assessing offices mailed out their 2014 Notices of Value on January 31, 2013. The time in which to appeal the tax value is limited to a window of only 60 days, with the appeal filing deadline set for April 1, 2013.

If no petition for review (valuation appeal) is filed within this 60 day period, the valuation noticed by the assessor is used to establish the tax bill for that property parcel(s) for the following year. The Notice of Value occurs one year prior to the tax year in which property taxes are billed and due. Therefore, the notices sent out January 31, 2013 are the notices for taxes due in calendar year 2014.

Since the majority of tax consultants work on a contingency basis, there is usually no “down side” in having the property’s tax valuation reviewed to determine whether an appeal is merited.  Meanwhile, the reduction in property taxes can considerably reduceCAMfor owners and positively affect the bottom-line.

 

Jodi Bain Sage TaxWezelman Sage TaxJodi A. Bain and James D. Wezelman are with The Sage Tax Group, Tucson’s largest real estate and personal property tax consulting firm. Sage Tax Group members have over 100 years of experience in the tax consulting business. The firm handles the majority of tax appeals for multi-family, retail, industrial and office properties in Southern Arizona. Ms. Bain can be reached at 520.885.4617, extension #101, if you have any questions.

Arizona laws regarding the appeal of tax valuations are highly complex.  This article summarizes some main points of the appeal process only. One should seek the advice of a professional tax consultant or attorney regarding specific questions.

Photo credit: bills.com

State of the Tucson Commercial Real Estate Market: Facts & Forecasts

We’ve been in the prognostication business of late, and have gathered a great deal of data on the Tucson commercial real estate markets in one slide deck.

Earlier this week at the annual Tucson BOMA/IREM Economic Forecast Breakfast, we overviewed the Tucson office, retail and industrial markets, and painted a picture of cross-border real estate activity in the Arizona/Sonora region. Click the image below to access the full slides.

Tucson Commercial Real Estate Forecast 2013

2012 IN REVIEW

In short, 2012 was a transition year for Tucson’s commercial markets, and for many of us, ‘fun’ returned to the marketplace by year end. Uncertainty shifted to stability, as all three primary sectors (office, retail and industrial) experienced positive absorption in 2012. While fundamentals firmed and continue to improve very gradually, no significant pressure exists to move values, lease rates or fuel demand for speculative construction.

Tucson Vacancy Trend

2013 FORECAST

Expect slow improvement in occupancy, lease rates and absorption. With health in the Phoenix commercial real estate markets and a stronger showing for Tucson residential real estate, signs point to a continued uptick.

Construction will be largely limited to user-driven projects, while we expect renovations to increase. 

Look for more development activity along the Tucson Modern Streetcar line, and a continuation of the downtown renaissance. Cross-border commerce between Arizona and the State of Sonora, Mexico, our bordering state, should continue to blossom in 2013, and Tucson is well poised to attract employers to ready sites such as Port of Tucson, UA Tech Park, Rockefeller Group Distribution Center, the Lisa Frank facility, and Aero Business Park.

If you missed our State of the Tucson Market Webinar which includes audio commentary on these markets plus the Tucson multifamily market, click here for the archive and click here for the slides.

You may also download individual market sector reports from our website – scroll down to 2012.

Barbi Reuter C&W PICORBarbi Reuter, RPA oversees Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR’s operations, research, finance and marketing/social media activities and serves as Associate Broker. One of 13 company Principals, she is active in industry and community leadership, through such organizations as Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), Greater Tucson Leadership, Arizona Town Hall, and board work for the Tucson Girls Chorus and PICOR Charitable Foundation. In 2012, she was named a Woman of Influence by Inside Tucson Business.

Photo credit: Lyn Sims Photography  

Search our listings

Our Top Posts and the Gems You May Have Missed

In the spirit of our esteemed commercial real estate blogger colleagues, we highlight the top posts of the year and a few gems you may have missed.

TOP FIVE POSTS OF 2012

1. Redefining Relevance for Brick and Mortar Retail Stores – a quality guest post on repositioning in the age of e-commerce

2. Women in Commercial Real Estate: High Time We Bridged the Gap – also the most commented post in our blog’s short history since the launch post

gems

Those rounding out the top 5 show the market has an appetite for expense information, reinforcing our belief in the value of a sound property management team and quality data:

3. What Mad Men Should Know About Office Operating Expenses

4. Operating Expense Trends in Retail Space

5. Current Industrial Operating Expense Trends

THE BEST POSTS YOU MAY HAVE MISSED

And for those of you who were up to your eyeballs grinding your transactions to completion, these were the posts our humble editor felt deserved more readership than they received, so take a moment to check them out:

How We Celebrated National Philanthropy Day – by donating $49,000! Read about our recipients

The Arizona-Sonora Region: Commerce Blossoms – From Tucson to ambos Nogales to Hermosillo, Sonora — read on.

Tucson: Where Solar, Optics & Innovation Shine – Optics Valley, Science City…Why Tucson? Read on…

Economic Stimulus: Fee Credits for Pima County – Read how Metropolitan Pima Alliance’s stellar efforts save Tucson area developers and property owners thousands on sewer connection fees.

A Tribute to our guest bloggers

Lastly, we thank our many guest authors who contributed quality and thoughtful content to our blog in 2012:

Vance Falbaum, RBC Wealth Management 

Christopher T. Moyer, Cushman & Wakefield Equity, Debt & Structured Finance

Michael Lagazo, Commercial Real Estate

Bruce Wright, University of Arizona Office of University Research Parks 

Michael Varney, Tucson Metro Chamber 

All the best in the new year to you from our Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR Commercial Real Estate family to you and yours.

What topics or guest authors would you like to see in 2013? Let us hear from you – comment below!

Barbi Reuter TucsonBarbi Reuter, RPA oversees Cushman & Wakefield | PICOR’s operations, research, finance and marketing/social media activities and serves as Associate Broker. One of 13 company Principals, she is active in industry and community leadership, through such organizations as Commercial Real Estate Women (CREW), Greater Tucson Leadership, Arizona Town Hall, and board work for the Tucson Girls Chorus and PICOR Charitable Foundation. In 2012, she was named a Woman of Influence by Inside Tucson Business.

 

Photo credits: www.jewelinfo4u.com, Lyn Sims Photography 

 

Don’t Panic About the Fiscal Cliff (Guest Post)

You can hardly watch a business newscast or read a business publication these days without a reference to the looming “fiscal cliff” – that precipice at which $1.2 trillion in spending cuts are made while Bush-era tax cuts expire.

Fiscal cliff CongressIt’s a scary thought, one that has some speculating that the U.S. economy would automatically tumble back into a recession. As an investor, you may fear that your portfolio would fall along with everything else. Should you strap on a financial parachute in anticipation of that day in January?

The biggest danger may be overreacting, making moves that are driven out of fear rather than logic. A financial advisor who takes a conservative, long-term approach to building your investment portfolio is a great ally in maintaining the calm, reasoned perspective needed to avoid panicky decisions.

While each person’s situation is different, most of us benefit by diversifying our investments. Even if the White House and Congressional leaders cannot work out a solution before reaching the fiscal cliff, not all investment classes would suffer. That’s why it’s essential that you spread your dollars among a wide array of assets—stocks, bonds, mutual funds, government securities, certificates of deposit and so on. While diversification can’t guarantee a profit or protect against loss, it can boost your chances for success and help reduce the impact of volatility on your portfolio.

Next, let’s consider the capital gains and dividend tax issues. For the past several years, qualified dividends and long-term capital gains (“long-term” meaning assets held for more than one year) have been taxed at a maximum rate of 15%. Unless Congress intervenes, starting in 2013 those dividends will be taxed at your individual income-tax rate and the long-term capital gains will be taxed at 20%. Also, depending on your income level, your dividends and long-term capital gains may also be subject to an additional 3.8% Medicare tax.

As of this writing, we don’t know for certain if those changes will occur. In the face of that uncertainty, the main criteria you should consider is what makes sense for your overall investment strategy, regardless of what Congress does. So, if selling those long-term holdings is a good idea for other reasons, doing so now at least guarantees you’ll get the 15% tax rate. If they are assets that you acquired as part of a buy-and-hold strategy, selling them now may not be prudent.

Regarding the dividend-paying stocks, you may want to shift some of them into your traditional IRA, in which your earnings can grow tax-deferred, or your Roth IRA, where earnings grow tax-free, provided you’ve had your account at least five years and don’t start taking withdrawals until you’re 59-1/2.

Another possible move if you’re in a higher tax bracket: You could benefit from owning municipal bonds, which generates interest that is free of federal taxes and possibly state and local taxes as well.

It’s always smart to be aware of the larger political and economic environment as you consider your financial situation. You just don’t need to let the frantic news accounts drive your decision-making.

Vance Falbaum RBCThis article is provided by Vance L. Falbaum, CIMA®, a Financial Advisor at RBC Wealth Management in Tucson, Arizona, and was prepared by or in cooperation with RBC Wealth Management.  The information included in this article is not intended to be used as the primary basis for making investment decisions nor should it be construed as a recommendation to buy or sell any specific security. RBC Wealth Management does not endorse this organization or publication. Consult your investment professional for additional information and guidance. RBC Wealth Management does not provide tax or legal advice.

 

RBC Wealth Management, a division of RBC Capital Markets LLC, Member NYSE/FINRA/SIPC

Photo credit:  Henry Makow