County sending out letters on business assessments

Friday, June 14, 2013
Joanne Brown, owner of the Holiday Island Barbershop, leans on her barber shop chair built in 1909. She recently got a letter from the county saying she has to assess property used in her business, the only notification she has received in 18 years. But how does she figure the value, minus depreciation, of a chair built more than 100 years ago? Kathryn Lucariello / Carroll County News

BERRYVILLE -- If you have a small business and have not assessed it for property tax, you may be getting a letter from the Carroll County Assessor's office.

That's what happened to Joanne Brown, owner of the Holiday Island Barbershop, recently. She received a letter last week from the county.

"They wanted to know how many vehicles I use in my business," she said.

Brown said she does not use a vehicle in her business. She drives her personal truck back and forth to work.

She has been in business here for 18 years and said she has never received such a letter from the county before.

"I didn't pay much attention to it," she said. "I just threw it in the trash."

But it turns out that vehicles are not the only property the county wants an assessment of, said Fawn Rowe from the Assessor's office.

"They have to assess anything used in the business: furniture, fixtures, machinery, equipment, vehicles."

Rowe said the county sends out such letters all year long.

"If we come across a business that is not being assessed, we send them a letter," Rowe said.

Assessments are due between Jan. 1 and May 31 of each year. If a business does not turn in its assessment by May 31, the county will look up that type of business on lists provided by the state.

"We force-assess a value set by the state," Rowe said. "We have to go by that if they don't turn in their own paperwork. It's based on square footage."

The county has records of the square footage of each business address.

But in the case of something like a barbershop, the county is not going to know whether there is one chair or 10 chairs.

Rowe said the Assessor's office makes an effort to contact business owners.

"We try to get hold of the business as best we can so that it's the closest it can be."

Brown said she didn't know she had to pay property tax and is not sure how her property should be assessed. She has two barber chairs, one built in 1909 and the other in 1950. Her clippers were made in 1963. She has a cabinet she keeps supplies in. And that's it as far as the business is concerned.

"I have no idea what my chairs are worth, but I doubt I'd get it even if I tried to sell them," she said.

She said she called the Assessor's office to find out what she has to do and was told paperwork will be mailed to her to do her assessment.

"But I'll never be able to get it back to them by the deadline," she said. "I don't have a fax machine."

Brown said the Assessor's office also told her she should figure in depreciation on her furnishings and equipment.

"How do you figure what the depreciation should be on a barber chair made in 1909?" she said.

Brown said she never intended not to pay property taxes on her business.

"I wouldn't have fussed with them about it," she said. "I pay my bills. I don't mind paying property tax if it's due."

She's just mystified as to why the county decided to send her a letter after all this time.

And she may have a tough time figuring out what she really owes.

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