Frequently Asked Questions
These are some of the most common questions we get.
Tax rates are based on millages, bond issues, and fees that have been voted by registered voters in the various districts which have been established by the Legislature or Constitution. The tax monies collected for the districts go to pay for schools, roads, law enforcement, fire protection, and other services that the taxpayers demand and desire from local government. To calculate the taxes on your property, you must take the assessed value, which is a percentage of “fair market value,” and multiply it by the appropriate tax or millage rate to arrive at the amount due. If, as an example, you have $1,000 of taxable assessed value and the tax rate is 114 mills, you would pay $1000 x .114 = $114 in taxes.
If your home is valued at $100,000, and you are eligible and have signed for homestead exemption, you would calculate your taxes as follows:
|$ 100,000||(Fair Market Value)|
|$ 25,000||(Taxable Value)|
|x 0.10||(Level of Assessment)|
|$ 2,500||(Assessed Value)|
|x .110||(Parish Tax Rate)|
|$ 285||(Total Parish Taxes Due)|
Note: The example is for parish taxes only as homestead exemption does not apply to city taxes or extra “fees.”
When additional taxes are voted by the people, an individual’s property tax bill will increase. Also, when market value increases, naturally, so does the assessed value. If you were to make improvements to your existing property, for instance, add a garage, an additional room, or a swimming pool, the “fair market value” increases, and therefore, the assessed value would also increase. The assessor has not created the value. People make value by their transactions in the marketplace. The assessor simply has the legal and moral responsibility to study those transactions and appraise your property accordingly.
To arrive at the “fair market value” for your property, the assessor must know what “willing sellers” and “willing buyers” are doing in the marketplace. He must also keep current on cost of construction in the area and any changes in zoning, financing, and economic conditions which may affect property values. The assessor uses the three nationally recognized approaches to value, those being cost, income, and market. This data is then correlated into a final value estimate by the appraiser. After your appraisal has been made, the appropriate percentage of value required by law is calculated as your “assessed value.”
The assessor is required by the Louisiana Constitution to list and value all property subject to ad valorem taxation on an assessment roll each year. The “ad valorem” basis for taxation means that all property should be taxed “according to value” which is the definition of ad valorem. The assessed value is a percentage of the “fair market value” or “use value” as prescribed by law. Property is assessed as follows:
- Land – 10% of its “fair market value” or “use value”
- Residential Improvements – 10% of “fair market value”
- Commercial Property – (including personal property) – 15% of “fair market value”
- (Note: Commercial land is assessed at 10% of “fair market value”)
The St. James Parish Assessor’s Office must appraise and assess approximately 12,000 parcels of property. All public service properties are assessed by the Louisiana Tax Commission.
As a taxpayer, you have a certain legal responsibility to furnish correct information on your property to the assessor’s office. If you have complied with these legal requirements, you are entitled to question values placed on your property. If your opinion of the value of your property differs from the assessor’s, you may go to the assessor’s office to discuss the matter. Be prepared to show evidence that the assessor’s valuation of the property is too high. The staff will be glad to answer your questions about the assessor’s appraisal, explaining how it was done. The assessor’s office must rely on the property owner for information, and you can help by providing accurate data. If, after discussing the matter with the assessor, a difference of opinion still exists, you may appeal your assessment to the St. James Parish Board of Review. If the Board, after hearing your petition, agrees with the assessor, a difference of opinion still exists, you may appeal the Board’s decision to the Louisiana State Tax Commission. If the Commission agrees with the Board and the assessor, you can plead your case before the courts should you choose to do so.
Fair market value is defined by Louisiana Revised Statute 47:2321 as follows: “Fair Market Value is the price for property which would be agreed upon between a willing and informed buyer and a willing and informed seller under the usual and ordinary circumstances; it shall be the highest price estimated in terms of money which property will bring if exposed for sale on the open market with reasonable time allowed to find a purchaser who is buying with knowledge of all the uses and purposes to which the property is best adapted and for which it can be legally used.”
Finding the “Fair Market Value” of your property involves discovering the price most people would pay for it in present condition. It is not quite that simple; however, because the assessor has to find what this value would be for every property every year. The assessor’s job does not stop there. He must immediately begin gathering sales data for future years as the market is constantly changing.
The assessor does not raise or lower taxes. The assessor does not make the laws which affect property owners. The Constitution of the State of Louisiana, as adopted by the voters, provides the basic framework for taxation, and tax laws are made by the Louisiana Legislature. The rules and regulations for assessment are set by the Louisiana Tax Commission. The tax dollars are levied by the taxing bodies, such as the parish council, school board, etc., and are collected by the Sheriff’s Office as Ex-Officio Tax Collector. The assessor’s office has nothing to do with the total amount of taxes collected. The assessor’s primary responsibility is to find the “fair market value” of your property so that you may only pay your fair share of the taxes. The amount of taxes you pay is determined by a “tax rate” applied to your property’s assessed value. The “tax rate” is determined by all the taxing agencies within a district, city, or parish, and those rates fixed by the Constitution. They include school districts, parish council, law enforcement districts, etc. The tax rate is the basis for the budget needed or demanded by the voters to provide for services such as schools, roads, law enforcement, etc. Tax rates are simply those rates which will provide funds to pay for those services.