Arlington, VA

At first glance, it does seem pretty suspect. Your used vehicle gets assessed at a value higher than last year, and you have to pay more personal property taxes as a result.

“I always thought one’s car lost value from the time it left the dealer,” a frustrated resident told us in an email. “Not sure how widespread this is, but it’s creating buzz in our neighborhood.”

Actually, it’s fairly widespread. Arlington County bases its vehicle assessments on the National Automobile Dealers Association’s yearly list of vehicle values, which comes out every January 1. This year, the values of many used SUVs, crossover vehicles, trucks and vans went up.

The reasoning behind the increase, says Arlington County Commissioner of Revenue Ingrid Morroy, is that the value of such gas-guzzlers plummeted in 2008 as fuel prices spiked through the roof. Those lower assessments were reflected in last year’s personal property tax bills. But one year later, the prices of big vehicles rebounded as gas prices fell and as manufacturers — in the process of transitioning away from gas-guzzlers — failed to produce enough new SUVs, CUVs, trucks and vans to keep up with demand.

Thus, as supply fell and demand grew, prices for all such vehicles, even used ones, went up last year and are reflected in the higher assessments this year.

“The assessment reflects fair market value,” Morroy said. She added that Arlington is lucky to have “a good mix” of vehicle types, and thus wasn’t hit by the downturn in truck and SUV values as hard as some of Virginia’s rural communities.

Morroy said that any vehicle owner with questions about his or her assessment should call 703-228-3135.

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