The D.C. government has reduced residential and commercial real estate tax bills by $20.8 million this year following appeals from more than 1,300 city property owners complaining that their taxes were set too high.

The tax rollback figure is up 30 percent from the $16 million in reductions a year ago despite a significant decrease in the number of appeals filed with the city's Department of Finance and Revenue.

Last year, 1,835 city property owners appealed their tax bills to the District government. Of those appeals, 41 percent of the taxpayers were successful in obtaining lower property tax bills. This year, however, about 53 percent of the 1,303 taxpayers who brought cases wound up with lower taxes.

Part of the explanation for the increased tax revenue rollback results from the District's new so-called stipulation process, whereby property owners can appeal their cases to city tax assessors before going through a formal appeals process to the District's Board of Equalization and Review. Slightly more than half of the total number of property owners who appealed their tax rates went through the stipulation process.

Of the total $20.8 million in property tax reductions, about two-thirds were approved through the stipulation process -- a procedure lauded by city officials as a time saver and a protection against lawsuits brought by unsatisfied taxpayers.

City tax officials also said the increased rollback figures can be attributed to the high number of tax appeals brought by owners of large commercial properties, which have the highest property values and therefore largest tax bills. The number of appeals brought by those taxpayers did not drop significantly from last year.

Of the 1,303 appeals lodged with the city, 712 (55 percent) came from commercial property owners. Following their successful appeals, those taxpayers enjoyed a total tax cut of $18.1 million, or about 87 percent of the total tax rollbacks.

Other appeals came from taxpayers who own and live in their homes (298 cases), owners of other residential properties, such as apartment buildings (249), and owners of hotels and motels (44).

As a result of the tax assessment changes, the overall assessable base of D.C. real estate dropped by $1.05 billion, the finance department said.

Robert Klugel, chief of standards and review for the finance department, said the new stipulation process is working successfully despite the increase in the rollbacks at a time when the number of appeals dropped.

"We feel justified in the actions we've taken," Klugel said. He added that taxpayers going through the stipulation process agree to accept the final tax figures worked out with his department.

As a result, "we've had a hell of an impact as far as court cases," said Klugel, who explained that in past years more than 100 court appeals have been lodged annually by taxpayers who are unhappy with their assessments.

"This year there won't be any court cases for any of these appeals {that have been} settled because they signed an agreement" not to sue the tax agency, Klugel said. "We settled without the threat of litigation."

In addition, relatively uncomplicated tax appeals that would have otherwise tied up the Board of Equalization and Review, which reviews assessment cases, have been settled by staff members.

"It's beneficial to the taxpayer and the District," Klugel said. "We gain more information about the taxpayer and save the board considerable time" through the new stipulation process.

In addition to the $18.1 million tax reduction received by owners of commercial properties in the District, hotel owners received the next greatest tax cut -- $1.6 million. Owners of residential rental properties received tax cuts totaling $513,000. Those who own and live in their properties saw their taxes slashed $509,000.

Klugel said more commercial property owners appealed their tax bills this year because of sharply higher assessments. "We felt they weren't paying their fair share of the taxes," Klugel said.