Collection of Delinquent Personal Property Taxes

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The legislature has determined that non-business tangible personal property is assumed to have no value and a tax is not imposed on this property.1The no-value presumption for non-business personal property has been upheld, based on the fact that the tax produces little revenue in relation to its administration costs, as well as the long-standing rule that the legislature may choose the method of valuation as well as whether the tax itself has any practical value.2

Most industrial and commercial tangible personal property is valued and assessed by the county taxing authorities in the counties where the owners of such property do business.3Pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-901, et seq., industrial and commercial taxpayers must annually file a schedule on which they list the tangible personal property they use in their businesses.  Section 67-5-903(f) contains a schedule of allowable rates of depreciation for commercial and industrial tangible personal property.4Pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-1509(a), the State Board of Equalization must, by order or rule, direct that commercial and industrial tangible personal property assessments be equalized using the appraisal ratios adopted by the state board for each county. However, such equalization is available only to taxpayers who have filed the reporting schedule required by law.

Public utility and common carrier property is centrally assessed annually by the Comptroller of the Treasury.5Pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-1302(b)(1), the assessments of public utility property shall be adjusted, where necessary, to equalize the values of public utility property to the prevailing level of value of property in each jurisdiction. “The authority to adjust the appraised values of public utility property to achieve equalization with industrial and commercial property is found in § 67-5-1509(b). This statute provides: (b) Equalization may be made by the board or commission, as the case may be, by reducing or increasing the appraised values of properties within any taxing jurisdiction, or any part thereof, in such manner as is determined by the state board of equalization will enable the board or commission to justly and equitably equalize assessments in accordance with law.”6Since 1997, the Board of Equalization has ordered a 15 percent reduction in the assessed value of centrally assessed tangible personal property in order to bring it to the same level of assessment as locally assessed tangible personal property.7

Much of the discussion regarding collection of delinquent real property taxes also applies to the collection of delinquent personal property taxes. However there are also areas in which collection differs.

     1T.C.A. § 67-5-901(a)(3)(A).

     2Sherwood v. Clary, 734 S.W.2d 318, 320-21 (Tenn. 1987); citing, Lehnhausen v. Lake Shore Auto Parts, 410 U.S. 356 (1973).  For prior law, see Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. 86-80 (April 3, 1986); Op. Tenn. Atty. Gen. 84-273 (September 27, 1984).

     3T.C.A. §§ 67-5-102, 67-5-103.

     4In re All Assessments, 58 S.W.3d 95, 96 (Tenn. 2000).

     5T.C.A. § 67-5-1301.

     6In re All Assessments, 58 S.W.3d 95, 101 (Tenn. 2000).  See also Louisville & N.R.R. v. Public Serv. Comm’n, 249 F.Supp. 894 (M.D. Tenn. 1966), aff'd, 389 F.2d 247 (6th Cir. 1968) ("L & N I"); Louisville & N.R.R. v. Public Serv. Comm’n, 493 F.Supp. 162 (M.D. Tenn. 1978), aff'd, 631 F.2d 426 (6th Cir. 1980), cert. denied, 450 U.S. 959, 101 S.Ct. 1418 (1981) ("L & N II").

     7ANR Pipeline Co. v. Tennessee Board of Equalization, 2002 WL 31840689, *1 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2002) perm. app. denied (Tenn. 2003).