Urban Fold

FBI Investigating Shady D.C. Property Tax Reductions

The Washington Post has found that the D.C. government reduced the assessed value of commercial properties owned by some of the city's biggest developers last year to the tune of $2.6 billion, which translates to $48 million in lost tax revenue.

Writing in The Post, Debbie Cenziper, Nikita Stewart and Ted Mellnik disclose that the reductions in assessed value of commercial properties - more than eight times the total from 2011 - came as the result of a series of settlements negotiated by the Office of Tax and Revenue. According to the authors, "The settlements - which in most cases went against the earlier recommendations of staff appraisers - reduced the 2012 assessments of more than 500 commercial properties. Some owners saw the value of their multimillion-dollar properties lowered by 40 percent or more, which shaved tens or even hundreds of thousands of dollars off their tax bills."

"Tax office officials say they have embraced the settlements to save costs on tax appeal litigation," write Cenziper, Stewart, and Mellnik. "But the reductions have spurred anger and confusion among some tax office employees whose concerns have filtered out to internal auditors and the FBI, which has launched an investigation, according to three people familiar with the matter who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they fear they could lose their jobs."

Although property taxes are the city's largest source of revenue, the actions of the city's independent tax appeals board occur outside of the public eye. 

Full Story: Surge in D.C. tax office settlements reduces commercial property owners’ bills

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