New Regime at the North Carolina Property Tax Commission

The change in the North Carolina Governor's office this year now brings a change in the make-up of the Property Tax Commission ("PTC"). The PTC is a 5-member, quasi-judicial body that hears appeals after the Board of Equalization and Review ("BER") level in the county where the property is located. 

Former members Cal Morgan and David Smith have left the PTC.  Robert Hunter, an attorney and former member of the North Carolina Court of Appeals, has been appointed as Chairman. Charles Penny, a retired City Manager of Rocky Mount, has been appointed as a member. Terry Wheeler, Bill Peasley, and Alexander Guess remain as the other members.

The PTC hears appeals from all the local county BERs. A hearing before the BER is typically informal wherein both the property owner and the county are given a short period of time within which to state their case. In my view, the local BER is typically a rubber stamp for the tax assessor's value.

The vast majority of cases before the PTC concern the tax value of the property in issue. Occasionally, exemption, procedural and other issues are addressed. The hearing before the PTC is more formal, much more like a trial in Superior Court. Typically, there are opening statements, direct and cross-examination of witnesses for and against the property owner and closing arguments. The PTC typically notifies the participants of its decision immediately following the hearing, although it is not official until a written decision is issued, usually several months later.

The members of the PTC are political appointees. The Governor appoints three members to 4-year terms, and the heads of the State House and State Senate each appoint one member to 2-year terms. The position amounts to a volunteer job as the pay is minimal. I served on the PTC in the early 1990s and found it to be an interesting position, although I would not characterize it as a "coveted" political appointment. 

Change is inevitable, but it is unfortunate, in my opinion, that, with the departure of both Morgan and Smith, there will no longer be an appraiser on the PTC. A PTC case is typically a battle of appraisers—so I thought it was helpful to the process to have someone on the PTC who could speak "appraisal-eze."

About the Author

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John A. Cocklereece, Jr.

John Cocklereece concentrates his practice on property tax appeals, business law, tax controversies, and estate planning and administration.
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