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Wednesday, September 09 2015

Things We Have Learned
First in a series
September 2015

Cold River Tax has been researching, appealing, remitting and salvaging property taxes since 2008 for some of the largest real property portfolios in the U.S.  We scrambled during the financial crisis to prevent multi-million dollar collateral losses at community banks and capital funds.  We’ve cleaned up and paid tax bills by the tens of thousands for REITS as they’ve assembled portfolios from New York to California.  And we’re working today with some of the country’s largest residential builders: breaking down plats and recording pro-rations as construction crews restock the housing supply.  Through it all, our team at Cold River Tax has built a reputation for speed, accuracy and responsiveness.


Along the way, we’ve gained valuable experience in dealing with the patchwork of regulations that constitute U.S. property tax law.  Our know-how helps customers avoid the frustrations that accompany regulations and deadlines.  Contending with portfolios that cross jurisdictions—let alone MUDs and enterprise zones, can be tedious, distracting and expensive.  Managing tax obligations will never generate a single dollar of revenue for your business--but clients across the markets we serve attest to millions in expense reductions and efficiencies that Cold River has accomplished for their bottom lines.
Over the years, we’ve accumulated “cautionary tales” that speak to the trepidations of this business.  As the first in a series, here are a few things we’ve learned:


Richland County, SC:  A property investor acquired 25 acres of raw land at a foreclosure auction in 2012.  At the time of acquisition, the county tax office failed to remove an agricultural exemption that the previous owner had secured for a farming operation.  The tax value levied by the county on this parcel amounted to $312.86 for 2012, 2013 and 2014 (South Carolina assesses real property once every five years—a so-called “cycle state”).  It wasn’t until 2015 that the tax office realized the investor wasn’t a farmer.  They removed the exemption from the previously commercial-zoned property...and calculated the 2015 tax bill based on what the assessment would have been at initiation of the cycle in 2011.  The county’s invoice to the investor/owner, including “roll-back” taxes, amounted to $665,000.  Ouch! 

Lesson Learned: Do thorough tax research before acquiring a property.  Be on the lookout for exemptions and appeal freezes that don’t transfer to a new owner.  Taxing jurisdictions have varied levels of experience, accuracy and sophistication.  And title search companies are more concerned with ownership than tax records.  

Georgia: When a homeowner appeals a property assessment, he still needs to pay 85% of the tax bill by the due date.  Appeal hearings can be a challenge to schedule, and often take place long after the tax bill is due.  The difference between 85% and the final bill is settled at the conclusion of the hearing. 
If a residential builder sells a new home that was appealed prior to closing, then somebody had better inform the closing attorney that an appeal is pending: if the closing statement shows only the taxes that were paid on the property, and the appeal is subsequently settled for less than a 15% reduction, the homeowner is going to owe the tax office more money.  The homeowner is not going to understand why he got another bill…the closing attorney will only have the title search to refer to, and the builder is unlikely to have any tax records whatsoever. 

Lesson Learned: When acquiring property, know whether you’re evaluating a temporary or final tax bill.

Baldwin County, Alabama: Excess proceeds that result from an auction bidding up a tax lien beyond its face value has been ruled by a probate judge to belong to the property owner (yes, the very owner who couldn’t pay his taxes).  In most states, any “excess” bid is held in escrow by the county in which the auction took place until either:  1. the homeowner redeems the tax lien (whereupon the excess is returned to the bidder) or 2., the winning bidder waits out a redemption period and gets the excess back upon securing a tax lien deed.  In Baldwin County though, tax delinquent homeowners are dancing in the streets, because their homes are almost always worth more than their tax bills…and the judge apparently believes that tax lien investors wear black hats.  In 2013, the Baldwin probate court awarded a $65,000 excess bid to a property owner whose tax bill and interest amounted $6,674.53.  The judge ruled that the excess bid belonged to the originator of the lien.  The winning bidder, you might imagine, filed an appeal.  An urgent, exasperated appeal. 

Lesson Learned: Tax liens are perilous, and case law is not uniformly applied.  Courtroom appeals are painful, time-consuming and costly.  Seek advice before pursuing lien-based acquisitions.

Perils, adventures and cautionary tales abound in the property tax industry.  We’ll serve up a few more parcels in our next edition of Things We Have Learned.  In the meantime, Cold River Tax would love to help your company avoid bad experiences with taxes.  Give us a call at 770-844-0782 or check out our video trailer at www.coldrivertax.com.

P.S.: Unlike some tax firms, Cold River has never purchased a tax lien at auction.  We only wear white hats.


    Bob Koncerak, President
    Cold River Land, LLC
    6435 Shiloh Road, Suite A
    Alpharetta, GA  30005
   

 

Posted by: Bob Koncerak AT 08:03 am   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, June 15 2015

Between 2007 and 2014, Bob Koncerak served as either an executive officer or strategic advisor to nearly a dozen southeastern US banks.  While he wouldn't trade his experience for anything...he wouldn't wish it on anybody, either.  In the insightful article below, Bob relays why he's "moved on" from banking to the alluring world of real property tax management.   I am a Bad Example

Posted by: Bob Koncerak AT 01:15 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Friday, March 27 2015

Thinking of your company as a collection of orchestrated vendors offers a useful and powerful perspective. All businesses engage an array of third-party providers to deliver products and services to our employees, and ultimately to our customers.

Vendors install our computers, power our networks and heat our buildings. Vendors conduct background checks on new hires, balance our accounting entries and build out office space. Coordinating vendors is a primary business function. It’s something that all owners and business managers do. A properly assembled and managed team of vendors provides the resources a business needs to create economic value and profits. Vendor decisions are akin to partner decisions, and all companies need good partners in order to thrive.

Another decision all owners and managers have to make is deciding what they want to be good at. Every business has to offer an expertise. Core competencies distinguish a company from its competitors and demonstrate value to a customer. They are the decisions of in-house expertise, and define the pursuits on which resources will be spent. Deciding what you’re good at makes it easier to evaluate what’s better to outsource to others. Competencies that generate revenue, for example, are most often commanded in-house. After all, creating the magic that generates revenue is a primary driver of success. Businesses tend to internalize competencies that maximize revenue generation, and also those that minimize total expense. Any competency that can be made stronger by outsourcing - either by revenue generation or expense reduction, will ultimately increase the bottom line. It is powerful to view a company through the lens of core competencies, because this perspective enables a manager to decide where to allocate resources.

What do you want to be good at, and where are you better served by having someone else shoulder the burden of a non-core function? Why should a business overspend to command expertise for a function better managed by others? The answer, of course, is that it shouldn’t.

In our view, property tax management is one example of a non-core function that should be outsourced. Managing property taxes in-house is an expensive allocation of resources, because hiring and maintaining a high-quality staff across multiple taxing jurisdictions is both costly and time-¬consuming. Appeals settlement expertise requires resources and data best deployed by a business that already has these core competencies in place. A business like Cold River Land. Outsourcing a process like property tax management enables a business to better focus on strategies that maximize revenue, while allowing a trusted vendor to minimize expense and maximize savings and refunds.

Knowing how to prioritize partnerships is important in good vendor management. And knowing how to prioritize core competencies is critical to maximizing profits. Decide what you’re going to be best at, and then outsource secondary competencies to others.

For more information about Cold River Land's property tax management service, click here. For a slideshow presentation of our services, click here.

Bob Koncerak is president of Cold River Land, LLC   Published 3/23/15
 

Posted by: Bob Koncerak AT 01:17 pm   |  Permalink   |  0 Comments  |  Email
Monday, February 02 2015

(January 27, 2015) — Robert D. Koncerak will become president of Cold River Land, LLC in mid-February.  Cold River is a leading provider of property tax management and escrow services to the banking and property management industries.  Effective January 31st, Bob will leave his current position as EVP, Chief Financial Officer and Chief Risk Officer for Altrust Financial Services, Inc., a $600MM+ commercial bank and holding company based in Cullman, Alabama.

Mr. Koncerak is also principal of BankForward Consulting, LLC, which provides strategic planning and performance management services to financial institutions.   

Mr. Koncerak has 30 years of experience in financial services and asset finance-related roles, ranging from positions in the capital markets to corporate finance and commercial banking.  Over the past 15 years, Bob has served as Capital Markets CFO at Wachovia Bank and de novo EVP/CFO at Touchmark National Bank.  Earlier in his career, Bob served as Assistant Treasurer/Director of Investor Relations for J&L Specialty Steel in Pittsburgh, PA.

Bob’s roles have put him in critical positions to assist with the launch, resolution and management (“take-offs, landings and turnarounds”) of commercial and financial businesses.  Bob is a speaker and writer on matters of financial interest.  His publications include The Most Fun I Never Want To Have Again: A Mid-Life Crisis in Community Banking, published in July 2013.

Cold River enables its clients to maximize property revenue generation by effectively managing their real estate tax process.  Cold River provides critical solutions to companies looking to optimize and outsource property tax management, appeals, payments and related services.  We provide property tax back office solutions that enable our clients to focus on their core competencies---and avoid time-consuming distractions, technical administration and back-office staffing.

Contact:

John Pearson, Managing Partner
Cold River Land, LLC | 770.844.0782

View press release at:  http://www.coldriverdev.com/news

Tags: Property Tax Management, Bob Koncerak, Cold River Land

Posted by: John Pearson AT 04:16 pm   |  Permalink   |  Email

    About us

    Cold River is a leading provider of real property tax management to the real esate and financial markets.  (more)

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    Cold River Land, LLC
    P.O. Box 2249
    Cumming, GA  30028

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    Cold River Land, LLC
    6435 Shiloh Road, Suite A
    Alpharetta, GA 30005
    770-844-0782
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    info@coldrivertax.com
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