What is a Segregation?
An assessor Segregation is broadly defined as any change in tax parcel configuration from what was previously described and/or mapped on the tax roll. There are two main types of segregation; the first being a change for development or sale, accomplished either by the legal transfer of property or through the subdivision and platting process. The second type covers administrative needs for the convenience of the landowner, or tax roll and program maintenance requirements. Within those two categories there are several sub-categories, which we define later.
Segregations for Development or Sale
Subdivision or Platting Process:
RCW Title 58.17 covers the requirements for effecting changes to property configuration and ownership, and the role of the Planning Department in several defined methods of subdividing land and establishing alternative land use or densities. The assessor Geographic Information Services tracks this activity and alters tax roll accounting to reflect the changes made through this process.
RCW Title 64.32 covers Condominiums created prior to July 1, 1990, and RCW Title 64.34 pertains to Condominiums after that date. The appropriate documents should be referenced for the creation, abandonment or alteration of a condominium, and/or the ownership and alteration of recorded documents. The assessor’s office is one of two review and signature requirements on the condominium plat, and focuses its concern singularly on the clear and concise definition of tax liability for the units created by the process.
Normal legal transfer documentation is sufficient for the Assessor to change parcel configurations for tax purposes. However, assessor tax account modifications based on transfer documentation do not mean that any subsequent land use is consistent with Planning Department regulations. The parties to an ownership transaction should make contact with the Planning Department to insure that the created property will be useful for future development.
Administrative Segregations are generally described as tax parcel reconfigurations necessary for the convenience of the owner in the form of a request (as in the case of RCW 84.56.340; RCW 84.56.370; RCW 84.64.060 and/or others), or to insure the proper application of taxes by the assessment process (as in the case of RCW 84.40.042; RCW 84.40.090 and/or others).
Sub-categories of segregation types
Add to the Roll:
Add to the Roll (sometimes called "Parcels without Parents") are generally of an administrative nature, and the parcel is created on the tax roll as the result of discovery in the course of maintenance. Improved control data and the application of coordinate geometry procedures within the assessor office, coupled with document screening procedures helps to identify situations which may have existed for years.
Binding Site Plan:
Binding site plan is an alternative form of platting generally used to solidify the outer boundaries of a larger development project like a shopping center or mobile home park, while the inner configurations may fluctuate or change. It does not require the prepayment of future taxes as is seen in the second half of the calendar year for normal plat processes. Taxes must be paid for the parent tax parcels for the entire current tax year before filing can occur.
Boundary Line Adjustment:
Boundary Line Adjustment is an accommodation to the sometimes necessary reconfiguration of coincident lots due to circumstances such as, (but not limited to), physical occupations that overlap recorded lot limits; or for general land swaps or sales. These adjustments must be created by transfer documentation transferring ownership of the affected area, and in those cases the area being added will always be merged (see Merge later in text) with the grantee tax account. Taxes for all tax parcels involved must be paid for the entire tax year in which the alteration(s) occur prior to the finalization of an Assessor Change Order.
Condominium is an alternative form of designating separate ownerships of real property (outside of the Segregation and Platting Act), wherein portions are defined for individual ownership with the remainder area designated for common ownership. This requires the public filing of a declaration committing the required common elements in some proportion to the ownerships of the units, establishing the existence of a homeowner’s governance system, and the appropriate platting (mapping) of the condominium (RCW Title 64.34). The taxes for the property involved must be paid for the entire tax year in which the condominium is created, and/or altered or amended.
Description change is generally performed as an administrative tool to correct or clarify an existing "Assessor Description". A segregation will be performed as an automatic response to the discovery of a new document or as general maintenance - if the change is significant enough to alter the assessed valuation. If it is deemed to be insignificant to proper valuation, the necessary change to the description will be performed as maintenance without generating a segregation. In either instance the tax status (paid or delinquent) is immaterial to the performance of the change.
Kill (sometimes called "Parents without Children" -or- "Remove from Roll") is generally performed as an administrative tool to correct or clarify the tax roll by deleting an existing assessor tax account. The action may be performed as an automatic response to discovery or as general maintenance, and will always create a segregation to preserve records integrity. It will never be done on an account in any year with taxes owing.
Large Lot Subdivision:
Spokane County Code Chapter 12.600.102 provides a process to divide and plat land into large tracts between five and twenty acres in size in either a "short large lot subdivision" (when four or fewer lots are created), and a "large lot subdivision" (when more than four lots are created). These are delivered to the assessor in the same manner as any other plat, and are treated in the same manner. As in all other cases the taxes for the real property involved must be paid for the entire tax year in which it is created, however unlike Long Plats it is not subject to prepayment of advance tax regulations.
Long Plat is the formal process of land division for creation of more than five lots, and is subject to full planning review. The processing of the final plat requires taxes be paid in full for the current year, and the additional satisfaction of a prepayment formula if the filing occurs after May 31st of the filing year. The end of the process is the filing of the "plat" and other related documents in the Auditor’s Office. The assessor staff regularly checks for documents of this type, and upon receipt will place the plat in the chronological segregation log for processing.
Merge is the joining of two coincident tax parcel accounts, and can only be done if both are held in the same ownership and are in the same tax code area. Two parcel accounts which are not coincident, (physically sharing one or more boundary), cannot be merged. In all cases, where the merge is not performed for the convenience of the assessor’s function, the taxes for the all of the real properties involved must be current for the entire tax year.
Number change is generally performed as an administrative tool to correct or clarify an existing tax account situation. The action may be performed as an automatic response to discovery or general maintenance, and will always be recorded as a segregation to preserve records integrity. As this is performed administratively the tax status (paid or delinquent) is immaterial to the performance of the change and the tax liabilities will continue over to the new account.
Railroad is an administrative type of segregation that has not always been a part of the local tax roll system as it is valued by the Department of Revenue for each tax district. Because the assessor has developed Geographic Information System (GIS) capability, the accurate mapping of these "centrally assessed" ownerships can be achieved.
Railroad lease is another type of administrative segregation performed on railroad property leased to others and not retained in the "operating property" umbrella of railroad necessity. These properties are reported to the assessor through the Department of Revenue in lease reports, and are moved from the "centrally assessed" method of valuation, to the "locally assessed" tax roll of Spokane County.
Road File can take the form of either an administrative or a development or sale segregation depending on the timing of the transactions and/or its effect on the adjacent ownerships. If the transaction is old or inadvertently overlooked, it will generally be performed as an administrative adjustment - if it does not affect the value of the adjacent property. If it is a current activity and it affects the assessed value of property it will be performed as a development or sale segregation to create an enduring record of the activity. Tax status relevance is dependent on which type it is, and the conditions in which the transaction took place.
Segregation is the "catch-all" of all of the other types of segregations for sale or development that are not specifically described in the other categories. An example would be the splitting of single parcels into multiple parcels based on transfer documentation rather than a plat or other formal process. The processing of the segregation requires taxes be paid in full for the current year.
Senior Citizen is an administrative segregation to facilitate the correct administration of the senior citizen exemption when excess acreage or multiple ownerships is at issue according to state and local statutes. These segregations receive an automatic "Priority" status and will be worked at the time they are received, rather than being placed in order in the chronological segregation log. These requests are always initiated by the senior citizen department of the assessor office, and tax status is not important. This type of segregation is for the administration of the senior citizen benefit program, and does not infer a permitted land use from planning.
Short Plat is the formal process of land division for creation of fewer than five lots, and is subject to planning review. The processing of the short plat requires taxes be paid in full for the current year. The end of the process is the filing of the "plat" and other related documents in the Auditor’s Office. The assessor staff regularly checks for documents of this type, and upon receipt will place the plat in the chronological segregation log for processing.
How is a Segregation Performed?
The four basic steps to the performance of a segregation are:
The discovery or request.
Discovery: The assessor’s Geographic Information Services (GIS) division discovers the changes being made to ownership in the county by tracking all forms of Plat activity, the Real Estate Excise Tax Affidavits (REET’s) and the underlying documents to those affidavits being filed in the Auditor’s office. Additional tracking of documentation relative to Mobile or Manufactured Homes is performed to insure proper accounts are created and hosted. All of these documents are processed into Assessor Change Orders (ACO's) that are placed in a chronological log organized under assigned numbers.
Request: We are developing a web application that will allow individuals to request segregations (under RCW 84.56.340; RCW 84.56.370; RCW 84.64.060 and/or others) to facilitate the tax administration of their ownership(s) by engaging the GIS segregation division segregation chronological log directly.
GIS Segregation Mapping and Tax Account Creation.
Mapping: The assessor GIS has been in existence for twenty some years, and performs segregations using imported subdivision mapping created by survey and engineering professionals. Using both Geographic Positioning Satellite (GPS) and Coordinate Geometry (COGO) methods, these tools are manipulated in the GIS computer environment to simultaneously record the combinations of parent contributions to child parcel configurations, and to create the overlay mapping necessary for public and county use.
Tax account creation: is performed by moving the appropriately organized and reported parent tax roll components from the GIS process to new child accounts in the tax roll maintenance software.
Appraisal Segregation Valuation / Mass Appraisal Accounting.
Characteristics: Parent parcel area and characteristics data organized into the new geographic configurations created by GIS are passed to the assessor’s appraisal section in a spreadsheet format for the application of assessed values.
Assessed Valuation: Commercial and Residential Appraisers apply valuations to the newly created accounts by a variety of methods tailored to the circumstances reported to them and their personal knowledge of "neighborhood" characteristics. Once the assessed value component has been attached to the new parcel in the mass appraisal software, the segregation is deemed complete in the Assessor Office. Record archives are created, and the segregation is forwarded to the Treasury.
Treasury calculation of tax liability and reporting to the public.
Calculation of Taxes: The Treasury calculates the tax liability of the divisions created in the segregation based on the assessed valuations provided by the appraisal process and the account information provided by GIS.
Communication with the Public: Once the individual tax liability is calculated the appropriate notification of segregation completion, and when appropriate tax statements are generated and mailed.
How is a Segregation Event Archived?
The Assessor Office believes in the full transparency of office functions within the limits of the law. All documentation for completed segregations is linked on the Assessor web site to the parcels on which they were performed. The data can be accessed by performing the Parcel Information Search on the Assessor’s homepage or through the mapping access at: http://maps.spokanecounty.org/.