Correcting Your Assessment
Correcting Your Assessment
Some Anderson County Residents are paying property taxes for more land than they own. This may be the case if their property is not actually as large as state records show it to be. The amount overpaid may be less significant for smaller parcels of land where assessment value may have more to do with the improvements to the property than to the amount of acreage. Of course, there are others with underestimated acreage, but how are property owners to know which category they are in?
Much of the land in Anderson County is made up of large and irregularly shaped tracts that have vague and imprecise deed descriptions, a legacy of a simpler time when land was measured with less precision, if measured at all. A standard of mapmaking is that measurements reflect horizontal distances. Slope distances for a 45 degree slope (also referred to as a 1:1 slope or a 100% grade) are 41 % longer than horizontal. Land at 20% grade has 10% more surface area than the actual acreage. Measuring along the ground surface will overestimate distances and as a result, overestimate acreage. Perhaps many of the old-timers creating these descriptions were landowners dividing land among families, measuring it off themselves, unaware of the standard practices of surveyors. Often, acreage called for in deeds may have been based upon what it looked like to the seller, maybe on how much corn could be grown on it, and less often based on mathematical computations as would the acreage determined by a land survey. A survey I recently completed in Frost Bottom, for a parcel of land described in several tracts totaling 79 acres, determined that it contained only 60 acres, and an Island Ford Road property which had been described as 54 acres turned out to be less than 46 acres.
A review of the deed description for a parcel of land can indicate whether there was an actual survey made of the property that was the basis for the written description. If it contains directional bearings, usually following the word “thence”, which are general in nature such as northerly, southwesterly, etc., there probably never was a survey. The description might even leave out the directions and call for “the line of Jones” or “along the top of the ridge”. If there are bearings with numbers like: North 32 degrees West, but without minutes or seconds it may be based on compass bearings which would indicate a survey of less precision. If there are distances in poles and links, the description is based on a very old survey. Descriptions from a more modern survey will include minutes and seconds dividing each degree into 360 parts. When there are bearings and distances for all the lines in a description, the acreage can usually be accurately calculated, when there are not; someone has to guess.
When the property assessor calculates the amount of property taxes for a particular parcel, the acreage to use has to come from somewhere. As in the Frost Bottom case above, there was only a statement of “more-or-less” acreage in an otherwise confusing and nearly indecipherable description. When better information is provided, the property assessor can more accurately assess the taxes and if that information indicates that the acreage is less than the amount previously listed, there may be some savings to the taxpayer. When a discrepancy is found between the acreage shown on the property tax statement and that determined by a licensed surveyor, a survey plat can be made a part of the public records by recording in the Register of Deeds office at the courthouse. Providing a copy to the property assessor helps to make sure that the new information can be incorporated into your assessment and the tax maps when they are revised.
Noel Peterson is a Professional Surveyor and Engineer, the owner of Coal Creek Surveying & Engineering and can be reached at (865) 323-6994.