Each year, hundreds of commercial property owners dispute the market values assigned by District appraisers. Owners start by asking the appraisers to reconsider. Then, the owners can appeal to an independent board, and from there, to D.C. Superior Court. In recent months, tax supervisors have avoided the appeals board and the court by settling cases prior to any independent appeal being heard. Tax officials say the settlements avoid the time and expense of appeals, which could also result in lower assessments. Critics say the tax office is failing to defend fair values for the city's tax base. Read related article.