APTC Marks 20 Years of Working to
Improve Property Tax Systems
This year, American Property Tax Counsel celebrates the 20th anniversary of its founding, and in that time the national affiliation of more than 100 property tax attorneys has
helped to shape tax statutes and establish case law across the country in an ongoing
quest to improve the nation’s ad valorem tax systems. The work of protecting property
owners from unfair taxation is as important today as it was when eight firms founded
APTC two decades ago.
This point is driven home by Dr. William Emmons, assistant vice
president and economist at the Federal Reserve Bank in St. Louis,
who says that the current low yields from income-producing properties render taxpayers especially vulnerable to tax bill spikes. “These are historically
unusual conditions, with an extended
period of very high valuations or low cap rates,” Emmons says.
“With very low yields, that automatically increases the volatility of
valuations. It is a tenuous period.”
But how does an organization of just 33 law firms coast-to-coast change conditions
affecting taxpayers across the United States and Canada, when property taxes are
administered locally and according to laws that vary by state? APTC attacks the prob-
lem on multiple fronts, from educating professionals who deal with taxation, to help-
ing lawmakers write tax legislation and representing taxpayer clients in the courts.
In the courts, APTC members have helped to establish case law that has spurred tax
changes in other states, observes Kieran Jennings, the managing partner at Siegel
Jennings Co. in Beachwood, OH, an APTC founding member firm.
A good example is a 2010 decision by the Ontario Court of Appeal in BCE Place Ltd.
vs. Municipal Property Assessment Corp. and City of Toronto. APTC member J. Bradford
Nixon of Toronto law firm Nixon Fleet & Poole represented the property owner in the
case, which is commonly known as the Bank Towers Decision. The court clarified that
in valuing a commercial property for tax purposes, the assessor must determine a fee-
simple value that differs from lease-fee value, which may involve atypically high or low
rental rates on actual leases in place. “The effect of the Bank Towers Decision has been
fantastic,” says Jennings, referring to the case having been cited in more recent court
decisions. “It’s probably the best fee-simple case there was in North America.”
On the education front, APTC offers an annual conference for members’ clients
and professionals who deal with property taxes. Presenters have included Emmons
and other industry experts.
These varied pursuits are all part of APTC’s multifaceted approach to protecting
clients and improving the property tax system, and APTC
is committed to continuing these efforts at all levels until concepts of fairness and equity are
firmly established in every jurisdiction’s
Stephen Paul is a partner in the law
firm of Faegre Baker Daniels in
Indianapolis, and is president of
American Property Tax
Counsel, the national affiliation of property tax attorneys.
He may be reached at ste-
The views expressed here are
the author’s own.
By Stephen Paul
Is NPL Too Competitive?
Not Yet, Says SWAY
OAKLAND, CA—Locally-based Starwood
Waypoint Residential Trust has picked up
another pool of non-performing loans for
$73.3 million. The total purchase price
includes 430 NPLs and 81 REO homes.
All told, during the third quarter to
date the company invested $308.7 million
to acquire four pools consisting of 1,800
NPLs and over 300 REO homes. This
most recent transaction was complex,
requiring SWAY to collapse the seller’s
securitization, pay off two mezzanine
notes and partially pay down the seller’s
The $58.7-million total purchase price
represents approximately 69.6% of the
estimated broker price opinion value of
$84.4 million at the time of purchase.
This deal follows Starwood’s acquisition
in August of two separate pools of non-
performing loans for $218.7 million.
Nonetheless its relatively smaller size
begs the question of whether the NPL loan
market is getting too competitive. This was
an issue addressed last month during the
company’s most recent earnings call. The
answer, in short, was yes, the market was
getting increasingly competitive—but
SWAY plans to stay with it.
“We plan to stay close to this market,
and come in and out, as opportunities
present themselves,” co-CEO Doug Brien
said during the call. He pointed to
research from John Burns, which found
that the number of NPLs in excess of the
20-year average is about $1.7 million, and
the top nine banks alone have over $100
billion in NPLs, leading SWAY to conclude
there is at least several more years of
“We like the business,” Brien said. “We
have the infrastructure to underwrite and
manage large loan pools, and Starwood
Capital provides SWAY with proprietary
deal flow to help us buy at attractive prices.”
The company’s NPL book is performing, according to its recent earnings
report. It is estimating current NPL
pools are achieving a mid-teen unlevered IRR, and an equity multiple of
between 1. 2 and 1. 3. There is also nearly
$100 million in UPB of re-performing
loans on the books that are generating
high single-digit unlevered returns,
according to Brien.—Erika Morphy
new board that includes Charles B.
Leitner, its newly appointed CEO. The
industry veteran joined Berkshire as
president last October, and now assumes
the CEO’s chair as George Krupp, the
company’s co-founder, becomes chairman of the board.