Tax Court Reduces AT&T Cell Tower Assessments By $1.75M

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Missouri

Although the tax man is coming for many of us in a few days, AT&T Mobility got a reprieve Wednesday after a Missouri Tax Court ruled they were not responsible for $1.75 million in assessed property taxes. The ruling covers over two dozen towers sites the carrier owns across five counties in the north central region of the state. The court ruled the counties did not follow federal guidelines in evaluating the sites.

The case of AT&T Mobility vs the Boards of Equalization of Caldwell, Daviess, Harrison, Henry, and Mercer counties (BOEs), ruled in the carrier’s favor after presenting, “substantial and persuasive evidence rebutting the BOE’s presumption of correct assessment” and established the ”true value in money” of their property.  Litigation on the case began in 2016.

The Court said AT&T argued that the proper method for valuing the subject property in these appeals was the cost approach using the replacement-cost-new-less-depreciation (RCNLD) method as determined by the company’s appraisal expert.  AT&T further argued that the counties presented no substantial and persuasive evidence to rebut their findings. The counties believed a correlation existed between AT&T’s revenue from the operation and use of the subject property and the value of the subject property. They posited that a 15-year life should apply to the subject property resulting in values higher than those they had initially assessed.

An expert witness, an appraiser, was brought in by the court. He stated the wireless industry is in a, “constant period of transformation and because advances in technology mean that wireless carriers have to make large and frequent acquisitions of the type of property that exists at cell tower sites” and, therefore, the cost approach was valid.

James Kientzy, Director of Radio Access Network for AT&T, testified that all of the property at a typical cell tower site in rural Missouri counties costs them $150,000 to $300,000.  Kientzy further testified that he did not know how the county assessors determined their conclusion of original cost, which, in the case of one site in Henry County, was over $700,000.

The Court said the tax collectors of Caldwell, Daviess, Harrison, Henry, and Mercer Counties shall continue to hold the disputed taxes, pending the possible filing of an appeal unless, “said taxes have been disbursed pursuant to a court order.”

By Jim Fryer, Managing Editor, Inside Towers

April 12, 2019         


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