Chris Dicharry, Esq.: Knowing Your Demographics Can Reduce Taxes

The value of property is influenced by demographic fluctuations. Thus, when property owners receive their tax assessment each year, it is essential that they and their tax professionals carefully examine demographic changes in the markets where their properties are located.

Estimated demographics are available at any time, but the end of a census provides a unique opportunity to mine for demographic gold.

What’s Important about Demographics?

A high-end shopping mall in a metropolitan statistical area (MSA) with a decreasing population is a prime candidate for a valuation reduction. The property owner’s ability to sustain sales is declining along with the MSA’s population, particularly if those leaving the area are high-income earners.

Shifts in population, household income or other demographics affect other property types besides retail. For example, a manufacturer may not sell to local residents the way a retail center does, but it hires from that community.

As population declines, the value of a manufacturing facility in that market will likely decline. This is particularly true if the manufacturer had targeted a specific MSA to maintain skilled employment levels.

 Demographics are Readily Available

Anyone with a computer or iPad can access U.S. Census Bureau data across the United States and convert the relevant information into a compelling graphic.

For example, it has been widely reported in the media that the Century III Mall in West Miflin, Pa. is struggling. A comparison of 2000 and 2010 Census data shows a decrease of 6% in the population within a 30-minute drive of the mall.

Readily available data such as this can be used to create a compelling chart documenting the losses sustained by a mall owner. Using somewhat different data, a manufacturer can document the depletion of a skilled work force.

While many factors affect value, and such raw data may not be admissible for an appeal, it is useful for presenting to the assessor convincing evidence to support an argument for a tax reduction.

Chris Dicharry is a partner in the law firm of Kean Miller LLP, the Louisiana member of American Property Tax Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys. He can be reached at