BENTON - While county assessors routinely check on real estate within their county, when it comes to personal property lists it often comes down taking the property owner's word for it.
"Every parcel in Scott County is checked every year," said Teresa Houchin, Scott County assessor.
Inspecting real estate property can be difficult enough as many landowners don't like people from the assessor's office on their property. "A lot of them don't even like you looking at the property," said Houchin.
With personal property, however, it comes down to "I do solemnly swear" for most categories with neither counties nor the state checking on the numbers.
The one type of personal property that has more than an oath compelling owners to list it is also the only reason many people ever get around to paying their personal property tax at all.
"You can not get a vehicle license without a tax receipt," said Houchin. "So anything that has to be licensed, they have to report."
Houchin said close to 75 percent of listed personal property is cars and trucks. "Most families are going to have a car or truck for transportation," she reasoned.
In 2001, the Scott County assessor's offices had 16,293 cars and 10,935 trucks on the books for a total assessed value of $71 million. Total assessed value of personal property was $95.3 million.
The 2,201 pieces of farm machinery in Scott County have the next highest total value for personal property at $4.6 million.
As mobile homes are considered personal property if on rented land or in a mobile home park, Houchin's office sends a letter asking landowners who rent out their land for mobile homes to return a list of those who rent their lots. The 900 mobile homes listed as personal property in Scott County in 2001 had a total assessed value of $1.8 million.
Assessed value on livestock is usually a drop in the bucket compared with other personal property. Records from 2001 show the county as having 1,512,829 chicks and 42,937 hens between the county's nine or ten chicken farms, Houchin said. The total combined assessed value only came to $164,350.
What little grain is actually on hand Jan. 1 each year doesn't amount to much either. The total assessed value of Scott County grain in 2001 was $23,780.
Listing livestock as personal property, however, provides documentation for government disaster payments and insurance claims in the event of a loss while resulting in very little additional tax.
Personal property assessment forms are mailed to county taxpayers each January - usually during the first couple days of the month in Scott County. The assessor sent out 18,335 personal property lists this January. "If you haven't received a list, contact my office," said Houchin, "and we can get a list mailed to you."
Houchin said it is the responsibility of the resident to make sure they file their list with the assessor. "When you do switch counties be sure to report to the assessors office that you've moved into the county," she said.
The first deadline to return the personal property list is March 1. "The second mailing goes out after March 1 and is due May 1," said Houchin. "After May 1 the penalties do apply."
The penalty starts at $10 for an assessed value of up to $1,000 and increases $10 for every additional $1,000 assessed value up to a maximum penalty of $100 for those with over $9,000 assessed value. "Most of them fall between the $20-$40," said Houchin.
Some information for this story was supplied by the Southeast Missourian.