The Seattle Times recently interviewed King County Assessor Lloyd Hara about undervalued properties in the Greater Seattle area. Recently, I was invited to visit one of the most beautiful houses in a security-guarded neighborhood in Shoreline (zip code 98177).
I didn’t know the owner, though. In fact, most of the guests didn’t know the owner, and some had even visited before. We just heard that he’s a multimillionaire and one of the earliest Microsoft employees. All guests have one thing in common — being generous donors for important causes.
I was invited because I had raised money for a charity in 2007.
I asked the attendees how much the estate is worth. With a separate guest house, a tea garden, and 14 acres, the main house is like a European palace overlooking key islands in the Puget Sound and its mountains.
“At least $10 million,” one said. Another said with all the art objects and statues of Greek gods and goddesses, it should be much, much more than that.
Out of curiosity, I called the King County Assessor’s office to find the appraised value.
“$1.87 million last year,” was the answer from the operator. The taxes the owner paid were under $30,000. The operator never asked who I was. All she needed was the address of the house.
You could argue the property owner had contributed to the community by hosting so many events free for charitable organizations. A number of properties in 98177 are popular destinations to loan to charities for parties. So that may have been an excuse for some rich folks to pay lower amounts in property taxes. Mind you, King County has a $60 million deficit.
That reminds me of what Michael Parks, editor of Marple’s Northwest Business Letter, said: No matter how the tax law is changed, “the rich will always find a loophole.”
I wonder if Bill Gates Sr. is listening! Gates is architect of the new initiative to collect income tax in Washington state for those making more than $200,000 a year. ♦