Tax Reform Top Issue for Real Estate Industry / Collection of Fees Favored; Stamp Fee Hike Opposed

Article excerpt

With the second session of the 44th Oklahoma Legislature well under way, Oklahoma City's real estate industry has taken active positions on several proposals.

Ad valorem tax reform heads the list of key issues for lobbyists with the local arm of the National Association of Realtors, said Jamie O'Neill, legislative committee chairwoman. She said the group favors House Bill 1750, sponsored by Speaker of the House Jim Barker, D-Muskogee, and Rep. Steve Lewis, D-Shawnee, which was designed to create equalization of taxation.

House Bill 1750 was approved Wednesday by the Oklahoma House of Representatives, along with House Joint Resolution 1045, also by Barker and Lewis. The two measures, which now go before the Oklahoma Senate for consideration, would establish a new ad valorem property assessment system:

- Under the joint resolution, state voters would decide if all property in the state should be assessed at 100 percent of its fair cash value, with a rollback in millage rates to a revenue neutral system. Voters in the different school districts and counties then would be allowed to vote for a higher or lower millage, which could not exceed 10 percent for any one year.

- House Bill 1750 would put many of the statutory changes into effect as required by House Joint Resolution 1045. Among the provisions of the bill is a uniform system of property assessment for all counties, with visual inspection every four years. A 25 percent assessment of all the property in the county could be conducted every year.

In addition, the bill provides for training of assessors and officials seeking the assessors' office.

Creating reform in the taxation practices throughout the state would mean that properties are assessed according to their "fair market value" and not according to how much money is needed in the county coffers to float bond issues, she said.

"The current system is antique, and unfair," she said.

House Bill 1794 seeks to raise fee amounts paid for documentary stamps affixed for the transfer or conveyance of properties. It has the support of the Oklahoma Nature Conservancy, since monies created by the measure would be directed to untamed prairies and grass lands, but is opposed by the Realtors association, O'Neill said.

"Raising the fee from $1.50 per $1,000 (evaluation of property) to $2.25 per $1,000 is unjustified," she said. "We think additional funds should not be the responsibility of buyers and sellers of properties. Let them (the legislators) raise additional funds by (raising fees for) hunting and fishing licenses."

Another bill seen as critical by Realtors was House Bill 1956, sponsored by Rep. Leonard Sullivan of Oklahoma City. If it becomes law, the Oklahoma Real Estate Commission, a regulatory body supported by the collection of practitioners' licensing fees, will be able to retain more of the money it collects, she said.

Currently a significant portion of the sum is turned over to the Oklahoma general revenue fund, but fewer licenses have been issued in recent years due to a decline in the real estate market and more money is needed by the commission to support its educational and recovery programs, she noted.

Senate Bill 366 deals with joint tenancy of property and is under review by the association's attorneys, O'Neill said.

A possible outcome of the measure would be to reverse the right of survivorship of properties that have been homesteaded by husbands and wives. In that regard, married couples might gain the right to buy and sell real estate in their own names, she explained.

State certification of real estate appraisers is the thrust of House Bill 2016, sponsored by Sullivan. It has the support of appraisers and real estate agents throughout the state, because the industry recognizes that if it does not regulate itself, the federal government will, said Terry Van Tuyl, a principal in the firm of Gray, Van Tuyl and Lawrence, real estate appraisers in Tulsa. …