Cellular towers now being taxed correctly

Published 7:00 am Wednesday, August 30, 2017

Recently, the Pearl River County Tax Assessor’s Office reassessed the way land on which a cellphone tower stands is taxed.
In the past, the parcels of land where a cell tower is located were misclassified as residential property, Pearl River County Tax Assessor Gary Beech said.
“Sometimes people have a house and 10 acres and call it their residence, but a cell tower is not residential, it’s commercial,” he said.
Other times people have several acres of timber, but one acre has a cell tower, so the portion where the tower stands needs to be reclassified as commercial, Beech said.
“It’s a pretty big change according to what it used to be,” he said.
Forestry acre landowners only pay about $4 a year per acre, but if it’s assessed as commercial, the property tax could be as high as $1,000, he said.
With only three ways to assess the value of a property—what it costs to build, what it’s sold for and how much revenue it generates—the county previously had a hard time assessing the true value of land for cell towers.
Because many of these cell tower contracts don’t allow the owner to disclose how much rent the cell companies pay, assessing each tower’s revenue is difficult, he said.
But a small number of local contracts do allow the landowner to disclose some information to the tax office, Beech said.
By using that information, as well as statistics from other counties, his office has been able to more accurately assess the tower values in Pearl River County, he said.
With about 40 towers in the county, it’s going to increase the overall revenue some, but it won’t make a big difference in the total county budget, Beech said.
Yet, from the small number of contracts he has seen, the cellphone companies generally reimburse the landowners for those land taxes, he said.
“It’s definitely making it more fair,” Beech said in reference to the overall tax burden of Pearl River County residents.
It’s also important to note that this change only applies to the land, the personal property owned by the cellphone company is assessed separately, he said.
Beech said he’s already notified landowners of the change. The Pearl River County Board of Supervisors approved the final tax assessments last week at its regular Board meeting.

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About Julia Arenstam

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