The Colorado legislature recently passed HB-13-1113, which was signed into law on March 8, 2013. This act creates a pilot program for an alternative property tax valuation protest and appeal procedure for the City and County of Denver. Though the bill has been signed into law, the pilot program will not actually go into effect unless the governing body of the City and County of Denver elects to use the pilot program. This election must be made prior to May 1st of the year in which the program is to take effect. If the election is made, property owners in Denver can expect several changes to the protest and appeal procedures.

First, the pilot program expands the timeframe within which property owners can file their objections. Traditionally, the Assessor mails property valuations by May 1st and the deadline to file a protest is June 1st. Under the pilot program, property owners in Denver will have until November 15th to file a protest.

Second, the pilot program eliminates the first step in the standard protest and appeal process. Under standard procedures, property owners must submit their initial protest to the Assessor. If the Assessor denies the protest, then property owners must appeal the decision to the Board of Equalization. The Denver pilot program requires landowners to file the initial protest directly with the Board of Equalization (referred to in the act as the Board of County Commissioners), which is then required to hold hearing. In most cases, the Board of Equalization will ppoint a qualified referee (likely an appraiser) to conduct the hearing. However, the Assessor is not entirely eliminated from the process. Under the pilot program, the Board of Equalization can give the Assessor authority to settle protests directly with property owners through mutual agreements prior to the hearing.

Upon first blush, these changes appear to provide property owners with additional time and a more streamlined process that encourages settlement. However, upon closer reading, the additional grant of time to file a protest might be misleading. The pilot program requires the Board of Equalization to make a determination on a tax protest within six months of its filing. The pilot program further provides that all protests that are not determined prior to December 1st will be treated as petitions for an abatement and will be governed by Colorado Revised Statutes, § 39-10-114. Therefore, to avoid having their tax protest treated as an abatement petition, property owners still have to file their objection prior to June 1st. Otherwise, the Board of Equalization can delay issuing a ruling until after December 1st of that year and treat the protest as an abatement petition.