Daily Briefs (June 2)

Record number of businesses, homeowners appeal tax bills
DETROIT (AP) — A record number of Michigan property owners are appealing their property tax assessments as small-claim homeowners and high-stakes businesses seek relief in a difficult economy.

The wave of appeals to the Michigan Tax Tribunal could decimate the budgets of local governments. The deadline for larger appeals above $20,000 was Tuesday.

“Since Proposal A was adopted, this is the highest we’ve ever been,” said Patti Halm, chairwoman of the Tax Tribunal.

New case filings more than doubled between 2006 and 2009, and the current case load is 32,000 for claims of less than $20,000 and 11,100 for larger cases.

More than 11,000 commercial and industrial property owners are waiting to have their cases heard. Appeals can take several years to be heard, but property owners who succeed are entitled to refunds of any excess taxes paid, plus interest.

Some legislators want to speed the appeals process so property owners get swifter word on decisions. Others, however, say arbitrary deadlines could trample due process rights.

For many commercial and industrial property owners, appealing tax assessments is almost required to control costs, said David Nykanen, a Birmingham real estate lawyer who specializes in tax appeals.

“If your neighbor does it and gets a reduction, he now has a competitive advantage over you,” Nykanen said. “My case load intake the past two years has been at record levels.”

Free listserv provides updates on Supreme Court rules, actions
Updates on court rule changes, proposed court rules, and other administrative actions of the Michigan Supreme Court are now available via a free listserv that sends subscribers Supreme Court orders relating to administrative matters.

“This valuable service will help to make our administrative function more transparent and accessible to the public,” said Chief Justice Marilyn Kelly.

She noted that the court already holds its administrative conferences in public, and also holds public hearings where interested persons can address the court on proposed court rule changes and other administrative issues.

Supreme Court Administrative Counsel Anne Boomer explained that the listserv includes proposed or final court rule amendments, as well as orders of appointment, administrative orders, and other administrative matters.

“I am confident that this form of communication will make it easier and faster to stay informed about the court’s administrative work,” she said.

To subscribe, send an e-mail to: listserv@listserv.michigan.gov with the following exact phrase in the message body: Subscribe ADMMATTERS. Instructions for subscribers are also available at http://www.courts.mi.gov/supremecourt/Orders.htm.

The listserv is operated and maintained by the State of Michigan’s Department of Information Technology.