A Room with a (Highly Taxed) View

November 22, 2005

Have you ever paid taxes on the Atlantic Ocean? On a mountain you didn’t own? Ever been taxed on a beautiful sunrise? No? Then consider yourself lucky you’re not one of the New Hampshire residents facing astronomical property tax increases because of the beautiful views they enjoy when they look out their windows.

New Hampshire is not the only state that factors scenic views into property assessments, but the state’s rapidly increasing pool of out-of-state homebuyers, often seeking vacation homes with scenic views, and the heavy reliance on property taxes (the state has no sales or personal income tax) have spawned a new property assessment calculus that has more than doubled many residents’ property taxes and forced some to move.

From The Washington Post:

So here, property assessors say, was their assignment: Try to judge each of the state’s properties, and especially each vista, through the eyes of the view-hungry buyers who were driving the market. There were no state guidelines to help them compare views.

“I hate saying that it’s subjective,” said Gary J. Roberge, chief executive officer of the company that valued Wilder’s view. “But it is.”

There are, in some cases, rules of thumb that appraisers can turn to for help. For instance, a view of a “name mountain,” such as Mount Washington or others in the famed Presidential Range, is usually worth more than a view of a less-famous peak. Also, 90 degrees of view is better than 45, and a river and hills are usually worth more than hills alone.

Despite these rules of thumb, one assessor calls the process “an ‘I know it when I see it’ kind of thing.”

How’s that for simple, transparent taxation?

For more on property taxes, click here.


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