Assessor » Duties of the
The Office of the county assessor is primarily concerned
with determining equitable values on both real and personal property for tax
purposes (§63-207, I.C.). However, the office has one other function that is
detailed and time-consuming. The assessor acts as the agent of the
Department of Idaho Transportation in titling and registering vehicles
(§§49-401A, 49-501, I.C.), The law also provides that if the governor thinks
it is necessary to call up a militia, he may order the assessor to carry out
a registration of all county residents liable for such service (§46-104, I.C.).
The voters elect the county assessor for a term of four years (Article 18,
Section 6, Idaho Constitution). Candidates for the office are nominated at
primary elections. However, if the county chooses an optional form of county
government, the structure of the assessor’s office could change. Possible
changes are changing the term of office, appointing an individual to the
office, or eliminating the office and having the duties and responsibilities
performed by other elected officers or appointed persons (Title 31, Chapters
52-56, I.C.). The county commissioners determine the assessor’s salary in
each county (§31-816, I.C.). The assessor is empowered to appoint deputies
and clerical assistants (§31-2003, I.C.). The compensation of theses
deputies and assistants is determined by the county budget approved by the
county commissioners. When there is more than one deputy in an office, one
must be designated as the senior deputy at the time of appointment. The
senior deputy then acts for the assessor when absent or in any way
incapacitated (§31-2006, I.C.). All deputies and clerks must also take and
file an official oath before performing their duties (§59-406, I.C.). The
assessor is sworn into office on the second Monday in January (§59-404, I.C.).
Appointments of deputies must be documented (§31-2007, I.C.), and the oath
of office and the appointment form are customarily joined together into one
legal document for filing.
The assessor is required to furnish a bond for the performance of his/her
duties (§31-2015, I.C.). The county furnishes such bond. However, since this
office is also involved in selling vehicle licenses, the county
commissioners may require an additional amount for this function. The bond
limit is not more than $50,000 for license collectors (§31-2015, I.C.).
Assessment of Property
The office of the assessor is responsible for the assessment
of property. This is the first step in property tax administration,
determining the value of real and personal property for tax purposes. The
duties of the assessor in regard to this function are prescribed in Title 63
of the Idaho Code (§31-2501, I.C.).
Real Property Assessment
Assessment of real property, and of personal property that
is entered on the property roll, is a continuing process. Land and
improvements on the land, such as buildings, are assessed in categories
(§63-109, I.C.). All property is to be assessed uniformly throughout the
state at its market value for assessment purposes (§§63-205 & 63-208, I.C.).
The assessor is required to have an accurate and complete plat book of land
in the county, with ownership records kept up-to-date (§63-209, I.C.). Some
counties do this by contractual arrangement with the local land title
office, which furnishes photostat copies of all changes in ownership. Others
have deputies in charge of the plats who follow all property transfers and
make the necessary changes in the plat books and other assessment records.
Legal descriptions of new and altered taxing districts and maps of new
districts and of altered portions of existing districts must be filed with
the county assessor, the county recorder and the state tax commission within
30 days after the change is effected (§63-215, I.C.).
Land valuation is basic in real property appraisal for tax purposes.
Periodic revaluation of all property is carried out under rules promulgated
by the state tax commission. There is constant up-dating of values of lots
and lands that have changed in use since the last complete revaluation with
an actual sampling of sales are used in estimating current land values
(§§63-203; 63-205 and 63-601, I.C.).
The assessor is to carry out a continuing program of valuation of all
properties pursuant to rules prescribed by the state tax commission, to
ensure that all properties are appraised at current market value for
assessment purposes (§63-314, I.C.). In order to promote uniform assessment
of property, taxable property must be appraised or indexed annually
(§63-314, I.C.). To achieve this, at least 20 percent of the property in the
county must be included in each year’s appraisal resulting in a complete
appraisal of all property every five years. The results of the annual 20
percent appraisal must be used to index all property not actually appraised
to reflect current market values (§63-314, I.C.). The county assessor must
maintain records showing when each parcel or item of property was last
appraised (§63-314, I.C.). The board of county commissioners of each county
is to furnish the assessor with such additional funds and personnel as may
be required to carry out the valuation program and may levy a tax not to
exceed four hundredths percent of market value for assessment purposes
(0.04%) to pay the costs (§63-314, I.C.).
The state tax commission prepares and distributes to each county assessor
rules prescribing the manner in which market value for assessment purposes
is to be determined for tax purposes (§63-208, I.C.). The rules require each
assessor to find market value for assessment purposes of all property within
his/her county according to recognized appraisal methods and techniques as
set by the commission, provided that the actual and functional use must be a
major consideration when determining market valuation for assessment
purposes (§63-208, I.C.).
To maximize uniformity and equity in assessment, the rules require, to the
extent practicable, the use of reproduction or replacement cost less
depreciation as opposed to historic cost less depreciation whenever cost is
considered as a single one of the several factors in establishing market
value of depreciable property (§63-208, I.C.). State law (§63-205, I.C.)
requires that all property subject to assessment shall be assessed for
The property assessment roll must be completed and delivered to the clerk of
the board of county commissioners on or before the fourth Monday of June
(§63-310, I.C.). The clerk must transmit it to the board of county
commissioners for equalization.
Personal Property Assessment
All personal property is reassessed each year by the
assessor’s office. The items included are construction equipment, business
furniture, and fixtures, transient personal property such as road building
equipment (§63-201, I.C.), certain types of manufactured homes (§§63-305 and
49-155, I.C.), and many other categories of personal property not easily
located and listed.
Assessors in the state must send a personal property declaration to property
owners to use in reporting their personal property for the year. Since the
annual date for assessment is on the first day of January, personal property
reporting sheets are sent out early in the year, with a March 15 deadline
for their return (§63-302, I.C.). These reports are supplemented by official
spot checks by deputies in the field.
The property roll includes all personal property assessed by
the fourth Monday of June and must be delivered to the clerk of the board of
county commissioners on or before the fourth Monday of June (§63-310, I.C.)
for equalization (§63-501, I.C.). Personal property assessed after the
fourth Monday of June is included on the subsequent personal property roll
and must be delivered for equalization by the fourth Monday of November
(§§63-311 and 63-501, I.C.).
Motor Vehicle Licensing and Title
The role of motor vehicle license salesman was assigned to
the assessor’s office when a local office was needed for licensing a small
number of cars in the early part of this century. The operating fee for
motor vehicles in Idaho is in lieu of personal property taxes (§49-401, I.C.).
Manufactured homes however, cannot be licensed without a verification that
the property tax for the applicable year has been paid (§49-422, I.C.).
The assessors are agents of the state Department of Transportation and are
directed to perform the duties prescribed in the Uniform Registration Act
(§49-205, I.C.) and the Idaho Motor Vehicle Act (§49-401A, I.C.). The
Department of Transportation furnishes supplies and license plates (§§49-201
and 49-443, I.C.).
These responsibilities require approximately one-fourth to one-third of all
the personnel in the assessor’s office and often as much as one-half of the
total space and capital equipment in the office. In January 1970, the motor
vehicle license procedure was changed to provide a staggered license
expiration period rather than a single date on which motor vehicle licenses
expired. The staggered expiration period has reduced the problem of a single
workload peak in the county assessor’s office.
State law provides 12 registration periods, starting in January and
proceeding consecutively through December, each expiring at midnight on the
last day of the month (§49-402, I.C.). The number on the vehicle’s
validation registration sticker determines when the motor vehicle license
expires. A sticker with a “1” expires at midnight January 31; a sticker with
a “12” expires at midnight December 31 (§49-402, I.C.). A person purchasing
his/her first license for a car received a new plate with the proper
adhesive sticker of renewal. §49-402, I.C., gives initial authority to
register vehicles for less than a 12-month period or more than a 12-month
period and to prorate on a monthly basis. There has been a policy of not
registering vehicles less than 1 month nor more than 24 months.
The fee varies for each passenger motor vehicle not used for hire and each
pickup truck having a gross weight of not more than 8000 pounds, depending
on its age (§49-402, I.C.). Fees for other types of vehicles are fixed by
state law (§49-434, I.C.). Certain types of motor vehicles, such as,
wreckers (depending on registration category), utility trailers, and
motorcycles, have licenses, which expire on December 31 of each year rather
than on a staggered basis (§49-402, I.C.). Subsection §49-402(6), I.C.,
provides for repossession plates to be used by the repossessor moving a
vehicle pursuant to a security agreement; plates are issued by the
The following is a partial list of the legal responsibilities for the
assessor’s office relating to licensing and titling:
- Selling license plates: The assessor
- Handles applications for registration for passenger vehicles, trucks, and
buses (§§49-401A, 49-401B, 49-434(1), I.C.)
- Motorcycles are included as licensed vehicles (§§49-114(9), 49-402(3), I.C.);
- Trailer houses are included as licensed vehicles (§49-422, I.C.);
- City buses and school buses are included as licensed vehicles
(§§49-402(2) and 49-434, I.C.);
- Computes license fees (§§49-402; 49-434, 49-401B, I.C.);
- Creates a record of the restraint and registration issued, by the license
plate number (§49-401B, I.C.);
- Issues registration cards to accompany each set of license plates
- Collects registration fees (§§49-402, 49-434, 49-445, I.C.)
- Accepts applications for special plates for national guard, §49-404, I.C.,
radio amateurs, §49-405, I.C., old-timer license plates, §49-406, I.C., and
mails directly to the Idaho Transportation Department;
- Processes the transfer of license plates from a car that has been
disposed of during the licensing period to the owner’s new car (§49-431, I.C.);
- May sell pleasure boat stickers for the Parks and Recreation Department
- Titling motor vehicles: The assessor
- Accepts filing of applications for Titles (§49-504, I.C.), along with
required supporting documents, and enters the proper recorded date when a
lien is being recorded (§49-510, I.C.)
- Collects fees (§49-202, I.C.);
- Performs special services in connection with duplicate registration
cards, replacement plates and validation stickers (§§49-202, 49-425, I.C.);
- Collects sales tax, when it has not been previously collected by the
seller, e.g. dealer, retailer, or private party (§63-3610, I.C. and by
administrative order of the Sales Tax Division of the State Tax Commission).
County government receives some compensation for the state mandated duties
of county assessors. For example, an administrative fee for actual costs,
may be imposed in addition to each motor vehicle registration tax or fee
collected under §49-402, I.C., and §49-434, I.C. A number of other, title
and registration fees are listed in §49-202, I.C. The administrative fees
collected under §31-870, I.C., and other sections are placed in the county
current expense fund. Idaho law clearly states that county elected
office-holders collecting fees must turn over their fees to the county
treasury (§31-3101, I.C.).
Revenue Allocation Financing of Urban Renewal Projects
The Assessor must prepare a base assessment roll showing the
value of all taxable property in the urban development area as of January 1
of the year in which the urban renewal district is established. Each year
thereafter, the assessor must determine the new additional value of property
within this district and must certify this information separately on
listings of value by district submitted to the state tax commission
(§§50-2901 to 50-2912, I.C.).
Taxpayers who feel their tax bills are too high usually
blame the assessor’s office. It is also the place taxpayers go when they
want a particular license plate number. Frequently they are not satisfied
with the response they get in either case.
Most tax increases are brought about by inflation and increased budgets,
which in turn require increases in the levies certified by cities, school,
road, and other taxing districts. For this type of tax increase the assessor
bears no responsibility. If taxpayers wish to have their opinions heard
concerning levies, they must attend the hearings held by these districts and
The assessor’s office should be active in helping achieve an understanding
between the county commissioners and the taxpayers. When there are increases
in valuation, which may result in tax increases, holding taxpayer meetings
to explain increases can be very helpful in reducing complaints.
County newspapers and radio and television stations are usually willing to
cooperate in publicizing county assessment policies. Publicly explaining the
complexity of government can lighten the load of complaints in the
assessor’s and county commissioner’s offices during peak load periods.
Assessors have helped this process by sending out letters to accompany and
explain the annual valuation statements mailed in June.