Beware the valuation pitfalls involved with the purchase of an on-going business that owns real estate. A buyer can accidentally cause its real property taxes on the newly purchased property to increase dramatically if it fails to allocate values properly between personal property and real property. Fortunately, a few preventative measures can be taken at the closing to prevent an unnecessary real property tax increase and litigation.
Imagine the following scenario: Company ABC decides to buy a hotel. The purchase includes the real estate on which the hotel is located, the personal property, including the furniture, fixtures and equipment (“FF&E”) within the hotel, and the goodwill associated with the hotel franchise. The purchase price for everything is $3,600,000. Neither the purchase agreement nor the settlement statement allocates this purchase price between the real estate, FF&E and goodwill. After the closing, a title agent goes to record the deed for the real estate at the local recorder’s office. The agent is asked to fill out a “Real Property Conveyance Fee Statement of Value and Receipt” (a/k/a “Conveyance Fee Statement”). The agent fills-in the purchase price as the consideration for the real property. Shortly thereafter, Company ABC receives a notice that the County Auditor will be increasing the value of the real property to reflect the $3.6 million purchase price, and the real property taxes will be going up to reflect this new, higher value. Company ABC objects because the $3.6 million price reflects the combined value of the real property, FF&E and goodwill. Now, to challenge the property valuation, Company ABC must file a complaint with the county board of revision and prove that the purchase price, as stated on the Conveyance Fee Statement, does not reflect the fair market value of the real property.
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