Assessments in Washington State are set at the market value of the property the year before the tax bill goes out. Assessment values are updated each year using a computer model. Every three years each area is updated in a more thorough way on a rotating basis by staff.
Cities, Fire Districts, School Districts, the County and other taxing authorities formulate next year's budget, add any voter approved expenditures and then divide the total by the total property assessments to arrive at the current year's tax rate. The tax rate is then multiplied by your property assessment to arrive at your tax bill. Please note that if assessment values double but the budget stays the same then the rate will halve giving you the same tax bill.
The key to paying only fair property taxes is
- Ensuring the taxing authorities submit legal and reasonable budgets. There is a law limiting budget increases in Washington State.
- Ensuring that your property assessment is in line with similar properties.
The county tends to slightly understate property values in order to reduce appeals.
Property owners over 65 may elect to postpone most of their tax obligations. These amounts will be added to the bill and collected upon the death of the property owner.
A more detailed explanation can be found at http://dor.wa.gov/content/getaformorpublication/publicationbysubject/taxtopics/propertytax/onepercentqna.aspx
Some rural properties may also elect to delay taxes by undertaking to generate a certain level of farm income. Taxes on forest land are complicated. An explanation can be found at dor.wa.gov/docs/pubs/foresttax/forestmgmt.pdf