In a property tax system based on acquisition values, the life of the county assessor is comparatively easy. As long as property values are increasing at a rate in excess of the maximum allowable rate of increase, the assessor has only to automatically increase by this maximum rate assessments of properties that have not sold. There is no need for the assessor to visit the property and make a detailed appraisal of its market value; market value is irrelevant for properties that do not sell. Moreover, when properties sell there is a transaction price that can be used as the basis for the assessment. There are, of course, difficult problems that will remain, such as assessing the value of significant modifications to property or placing a value on transactions that may not have been conducted at market value. In addition, there may be complex rules determining when a property is actually “sold,” particularly in sophisticated commercial transactions.
The life of an assessor in much more complicated in a market-value system. In this type of system, the assessor is responsible for placing a market value on every property in every year. The advent of computers has made this endeavor somewhat easier with sophisticated programs to assist mass appraising. As described in Chapter 2, market-value assessment is an ideal that many jurisdictions fall far short of meeting.
Although the life of the assessor is less complex under an acquisition-value tax system, it is much more complicated for researchers interested in measuring the differences between market and assessed values. At any point in time, most properties will not be assessed at market value.