Tangible Personal Property/Assessor

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The assessor of property, not later than February 1 of each year, is to furnish a schedule on which business owners list in detail tangible personal property used or held for use in the business or profession of the taxpayer.1This schedule, the format of which is specified by statute, lists allowable depreciated costs for different categories of property, as well as general data of the particular taxpayer.2 (Sample Personal Property Depreciation Chart.) The taxpayer can use a value different from the standard depreciated cost if the different value more closely approximates fair market value; the assessor may request supportive information in such instances from the taxpayer.3The depreciation tables set out in the Tennessee Code Annotated have given rise to a great deal of litigation. Recent decisions by the Tennessee Supreme Court and Court of Appeals have upheld the constitutionality of the application of the depreciation schedules set forth in T.C.A. § 67-5-903(f) to locally assessed tangible personal property;4the constitutionality of the requirement to adjust the assessments of public utility property on the basis of ratio studies pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-1302(b)(1);5and the constitutionality of the requirement that locally assessed commercial and industrial tangible personal property be adjusted by the appraisal ratio adopted for each county pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-1509(a).6Due to these decisions, and other tax litigation cases, counties have experienced a significant reduction in the amount of revenue received from the taxation of tangible personal property.7  Since 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.8

It is the duty of the taxpayer to list fully the tangible personal property used, or held for use, in the taxpayer's business or profession on the schedule, including other information required by the assessor, place the property's correct value on the schedule, and to sign and return the schedule to the assessor on or before March 1 of each year. In lieu of detailing acquisition cost on the reporting schedule, the taxpayer may certify that the depreciated value of tangible personal property otherwise reportable on the schedule is $1,000 or less. The assessor must accept the certification, subject to audit, and fix the value of tangible personal property assessable to the taxpayer pursuant to the schedule, at $1000. This value is subject to equalization pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-1509. The certification stated on the schedule must warn the taxpayer that it is made subject to penalties for perjury and subject to statutory penalty and costs if proven false.9

A taxpayer who fails, refuses or neglects to complete, sign and file the schedule with the assessor, as provided in T.C.A. § 67-5-903(b), is deemed to have waived objections to the forced assessment determined by the assessor, subject only to the remedies provided in T.C.A. § 67-5-903(d). In determining a forced assessment, the assessor must consider available evidence indicative of the fair market value of property assessable to the taxpayer under T.C.A. § 67-5-903. After determining the assessable value of the property, the assessor must  give the taxpayer notice of the assessment by United States mail, addressed to the last known address of the taxpayer or the taxpayer's agent at least five calendar days before the local board of equalization commences its annual session.10

The remedies of a taxpayer against whom a forced assessment is made are as follows:

  1. The taxpayer may appeal to the county board of equalization pursuant to T.C.A. § 67-5-1407, but must present a completed schedule as otherwise provided in T.C.A. § 67-5-903;
  2. If the deadline to appeal to the county board of equalization has expired, then the taxpayer may request the assessor to mitigate the forced assessment by reducing the forced assessment to the standard depreciated value of the taxpayer's assessable property plus twenty-five percent (25%), so long as the failure to file the schedule or failure to timely appeal to the county board of equalization was not the result of gross negligence or willful disregard of the law. Mitigation of the forced assessment shall follow the procedure, including appeal, prescribed for correction of error under T.C.A. § 67-5-509, but must be requested within the same deadline as provided for amendment of a schedule pursuant to subsection (e). Gross negligence shall be presumed if notice of the forced assessment, in a form approved by the State Board of Equalization, was sent certified mail, return receipt requested, to the taxpayer's last known address on file with the assessor.

Whether or not an assessor's error affected the original assessment, the assessor may correct a forced assessment using the procedure provided and subject to the deadlines provided in T.C.A. § 67-5-509, upon determining that the taxpayer was not in business as of the assessment date for the year at issue, and upon determining that the taxpayer did not own or lease tangible personal property used or held for use in a business as of the assessment date for the year at issue.11

A taxpayer may amend a personal property schedule timely filed with the assessor at any time on or before September 1 following the tax year. If the assessor agrees with the amended schedule, the assessor will revise the assessment and certify the revised assessment to the trustee. If the assessor believes the assessment should be otherwise than claimed in the amended schedule, the assessor will adjust the assessment and give written notice to the taxpayer of the adjusted assessment. The taxpayer may appeal the assessor's adjustment of or refusal to accept an amended assessment schedule to the local and state boards of equalization in the manner otherwise provided by law. Additional taxes due as the result of an amended schedule are not deemed delinquent on or before 60 days after the date notice of the amended assessment was sent to the taxpayer. Amendment of a personal property schedule is not be permitted once suit has been filed to collect delinquent taxes related to the original assessment. The assessor must, within 60 days from receipt of the taxpayer's amended schedule, review and accept or reject the schedule. In any event, the taxpayer must be notified in writing of the results of the review. If the assessor has not notified the taxpayer that the amended schedule has been accepted or rejected within 60 days, the taxpayer's amended schedule will be deemed not accepted by the assessor.12

     1T.C.A. § 67-5-903(a).

     2T.C.A. § 67-5-903(f). 

     3T.C.A. § 67-5-902.

     4In Re All Assessments 1999 & 2000, 67 S.W.3d 805, 816-820 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2001) (upholding the constitutionality of T.C.A. §§ 67-5-903(f) and 67-5-1302(b)(1)).

     5In Re All Assessments 1999 & 2000, 67 S.W.3d 805, 820-821 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2001) (upholding the constitutionality of T.C.A. §§ 67-5-903(f) and 67-5-1302(b)(1)).

     6Williamson County v. Tennessee State Board of Equalization, 86 S.W.3d 216 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2002) (upholding the constitutionality of T.C.A. §§ 67-5- 903(f) and 67-5-1509(a)).

     7See also In Re All Assessments 1998, 58 S.W.3d 95, 102 (Tenn. 2000) (holding: "The Tennessee Board of Equalization is authorized to reduce (or increase) the appraised (and therefore corresponding assessed) value of centrally-assessed public utility tangible personal property as part of the equalization process, the purpose of which is to equalize the ratio of the appraised value to fair market value of public utility property in any particular county with the corresponding ratio for industrial and commercial property in that county.").

     8ANR Pipeline Co. v. Tennessee Board of Equalization, 2002 WL 31840689, *1 (Tenn.Ct.App. 2002) perm. app. denied (Tenn. 2003).

     9T.C.A. § 67-5-903(b).

     10T.C.A. § 67-5-903(c).

     11T.C.A. § 67-5-903(d).

     12T.C.A. § 67-5-903(e).