Now that the 1996 elections are (finally) over it is time to reflect about several aspects of the political process.
Once again, politicians in Washington were for sale. The news was full of reports about massive amounts of money flowing into the campaign treasuries of politicians who have undoubtedly promised valuable favors after the election. Of course this is bribery, but it is all legal when called campaign contributions.
Throughout my entire adult life I have heard politicians promising to reform campaign financing laws for themselves. And despite the past reforms there are still as many scandals as ever and the amount of money has tripled since the last elections.
Still we have more promises of reform, but it should be abundantly clear by now that no matter what laws the politicians pass for themselves, they will always find ways around the laws so long as they have valuable favors to sell. I repeat: Politicians will always find ways around the laws to long as they have valuable favors to sell.
A few thousand dollars in campaign contributions or favors to the candidate, is worth millions of dollars in subsidies or regulatory favors. Indeed, there is no better investment in the world than a well placed politician. The investment is so good that contributors frequently contribute to both sides of the campaign.
There have been many proposals for campaign reform, the silliest of which is to force the taxpayers to pay for the campaigns of politicians that they don't believe in or even despise. No, the only solution to the corruption of power in government is to take away the power in government.
No one pays you and me for political favors because we have no power to give any. It should be the same with politicians. If we don't ask politicians to do anything for us, they won't have any favors to sell.
Are there any successful politicians out there to give us hope? Damn few. But I am pleased to report that there is one in Hawaii. Sam Slom rejected contributions from special interest groups, preferring not to be obligated to anyone. His opponent in the State Senate race, incumbent Donna Ikeda, powerful chair of the Senate Ways & Means Committee outspent him twenty-five to one-and Sam still won twice as many votes. He won on a pledge to cut back on government. Let's help him make that a reality.
Twenty-five to one? That's about the odds against him in the State Senate. No Problem!
REDUCE YOUR REAL PROPERTY TAXES?
By Michael R. Daniels, Law Offices of Michael Daniels and Associates
Unless you recently received a reduction in your real property assessment value it is likely you are paying more than your fair share of property taxes. Real property sales prices have been falling these last few years while the need for tax revenues remains high. It is unlikely your assessments will be lowered without your vigilance and you must take action. The deadline for filing a notice of appeal, together with your grounds for appeal, is January 9, 1997. Appeals must be filed upon an individual basis and can be both time consuming and difficult to prove but are worth the effort because, if successful, you save taxes for the year appealed and the future years.
There are Four Grounds to Challenge Your Assessed Valuation:
1. The property is over assessed by more than ten percent (10%); 2. There is inequality of lack of uniformity resulting from the use of illegal assessment methods or an error in the application of the methods used; 3. You have been denied an exemption to which you were entitled; 4. The assessment methods are unconstitutional or in violation of state laws or county ordinances.
A. Challenging for Fair Market Value: Sales of comparable real property are strongly favored as guidelines for fair market value of residential homes. To challenge one's assessed valuation a search of past sales in your area is necessary to locate sales transactions at prices lower than your assessment. Additionally, a search for past successful appeals of like real property are also evidence of over valuation of your property. While the Cost approach is usually reserved for commercial properties it should be examined in each case for possible help in showing over valuation even in private residences.
B. Challenging for Illegality or Inequality of application of assessment methods: In proving the inappropriateness of affixing valuations to individual real properties it has been held that although the Procedure and Reference Manual is a tax department guideline, rather than a statute or ordinance, compliance with the policies and procedures in the Manual is an indicia of fairness. From this statement it can be seen that to appeal an assessed valuation; on the basis of illegality, lack of uniformity or inequality; is very difficult if the assessor shows he/she has followed the Procedure and reference Manual.
C. Challenging Assessed Valuation of Leasehold Interests: Property is assessed on its fee simple value, therefore, in dealing with leasehold property, the value of the lessor's interest must be added to the sales price of the leasehold to arrive at fee simple value. Therefore research and argument as to the fair market value of the fee interest must be prepared to completely argue the leasehold value.
D. Costs to file an appeal is low: Board of Review. (From which you may appeal their decision to the Tax Appeal Court). A filing fee of Twenty-Five Dollars ($25.00) must be paid at time of filing form P-51. This sum will be refunded if your appeal is sustained by fifty (50%) or more of the valuation in dispute. Tax Appeal Court. The cost for filing an appeal with the Tax Appeal Court if Five percent (5%) of the amount of taxes in dispute but not more than One Hundred Dollars ($100.00) or less than Five Dollars ($5.00) for each case. The average residential owner usually pays $25.00 to $40.00 to file an appeal. To appeal from a decision by the Tax Appeal Court the appellant has the burden of showing that the decision of the Tax Appeal Court was CLEARLY ERRONEOUS.
E. Preparing the Appeal: The research of past sales of like property, as well as past successful tax appeals, and the preparation of both written and oral argument are advised to insure the proper presentation of your case. The property owner can appear and present their case or he/she can engage professional help. It is not expensive as professionals will prepare and present each case and usually are paid a percentage of what they save you in taxes, and only if they are successful. Remember January 9, 1997 is the deadline for filing these appeals and it requires some time to properly prepare the grounds for appeal. Now is the time to act! Mr. Daniels is a Honolulu Business and Real Estate Attorney. (808) 599-8686.
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