This is only a general guide. The Arizona Tax Department cannot provide assistance or legal advice.
Before filing your tax appeal, you may wish to look at other options. The county assessor may agree to an informal review, or you may file a request for a formal hearing, or you can take your case to the State or County Board of Equalization. Consult your county assessor's office for information on these options.
If you do choose to appeal in court, there are three alternatives.
- Any tax appeal may be filed in the Arizona Tax Department.
- If you are appealing the valuation of your owner-occupied residence regardless of its value, or the valuation or classification of any real estate with an assessed full cash value of two million dollars or less, or any other state or local tax of less then five thousand dollars (including penalties and interest), you may file in the Small Claims Division of the Arizona Tax Department. Hearings in the Small Claims Division are less formal, and you do not have to hire a process server (the Clerk of the Court will serve the taxing authority for you); however, there is no appeal.
- For property taxes only, you may file an appeal as a regular civil case in the Superior Court for the county in which your property is located. Contact the Clerk of the Court in the appropriate county for information on how to file. Please note that the small claims procedure is not available if you choose this route.
- The Arizona courts have no authority over the Internal Revenue Service, so if you object to your federal tax bill, contact the IRS directly.
No matter which alternative you choose, you must begin by filing a complaint with the Clerk of the Court. (If you use the suggested form and you are filing in the regular Tax Court, not the Small Claims Division, please strike through the reference to small claims on the first page.) Arizona follows what is called notice pleading, so no magic words are necessary: just explain your objection to the tax and the relief you seek as clearly as possible. Bring the completed complaint to the Probate and Tax Filing Counter in the Old Courthouse, 125 West Washington Street, 1st Floor, Phoenix, AZ 85003. A small claims complaint can be mailed to that address; however, delivering it in person avoids any risk that it will be lost in the mail. There is a required filing fee; please consult the Clerk of the Court website for the current amount.
There are certain rules that must be strictly followed or your case will be dismissed. The appeal must be filed by December 15 of the year prior to the tax year - for example, an appeal of the 2011 assessment must be filed by December 15, 2010. (This deadline may be different if you have previously appealed to the assessor or Board of Equalization; the letter you received informing you of the decision will explain the timing of your appeal.) The tax for the tax year being appealed must have been paid on time - if it becomes due while your case is pending, it must be paid promptly - and there can be no delinquent taxes for previous years still unpaid. Unless you filed in the Small Claims Division, you must have the summons and complaint served upon the taxing authority within 10 days of filing; this can be done by the county sheriff's office or by a registered process server.
Once the taxing authority has received your complaint, it will investigate and get in touch with you. Because it receives many tax appeals at around the same time, this can take several weeks or even months, so be patient. If you and the taxing authority cannot reach an agreement, you must inform the judge or commissioner assigned to your case by filing a motion to set the case for trial.
In either the Tax Department or the Small Claims Division, you may represent yourself or have an attorney represent you. (There are a few non-attorneys who have been authorized to represent clients in Small Claims Division; ask to see the person's authorization before hiring him or her.) If your case is in the Tax Court, an attorney would be advisable, as the rules of evidence and civil procedure are strictly followed. In Small Claims Division, the rules are more relaxed, and you may be more comfortable handling your case yourself. Wherever your case is heard, the burden is on you to prove the assessor is wrong. You must present evidence, which can include photographs, a formal appraisal of your property, records of comparable properties nearby, and the like, to meet this burden. The taxing authority may of course present its own evidence, so be prepared to rebut it.
Because the burden of proof rests with you, the plaintiff, you must present factual evidence to disprove the assessor's valuation of your property. To prove the value of the property is too high, you must present expert evidence as to its actual full cash value.
If you present an appraiser's written report of the property's value, the appraiser does not have to attend the trial to testify, if you are proceeding under the small claims tax procedures. A small claims tax trial is informal. Any evidence may be received which will assist the Court to arrive at a just and fair determination of the case. Although the Arizona Rules of Evidence govern the taking of evidence, the judge in a small claims tax case may receive any relevant evidence which the court determines to be reliable, even if the evidence would otherwise be inadmissible by strict application of the Rules of Evidence.
Arizona Revised Statutes, sections 42-12001 through 42-12009 describe the classes of property uses upon which tax valuation is based. All property in Arizona is classified according to its current use. If you intend to dispute the classification of your property, you need to prove how you use the property. If the assessor has changed the classification and the property has not been sold or transferred, you must prove that your property should be in a different classification. Go to the library and look up Arizona laws on classification, including A.R.S. sections 42-12001 through 42-12009. You will find the Arizona Revised Statutes in most public libraries, college libraries and all law libraries. The Maricopa County Law Library is located on the second floor of the East Court Building, 101 West Jefferson, Phoenix, Arizona 85003-2243.
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