What is Assessment?

Legal Definition
The making out a list of property, and fixing its valuation or appraisement; it is also applied to making out a list of persons, and appraising their several occupations, chiefly with a view of taxing the said persons and their property.
-- Bouviers Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
In a general sense, denotes the process of ascertaining and adjusting the Shares respectively to be contributed by several persons towards a common beneficial object according to the benefit received.

In taxation. The listing and valuation of property for the purpose of apportioning a tax upon It, either according to value alone or in proportion to benefit received. Also determining the share of a tax to be paid by each of many persons; or apportioning the entire tax to be levied among the different taxable persons, establishing the proportion due from each. Adams, etc., Co. v. Shelby-ville, 154 Ind. 467, 57 N. Bl 114, 49 In R. A. 707, 77 Am. St. Rep. 484; Webb v. Bid-well, 15 Minn. 483 (Gil.' 394); State v. Farmer, 94 Tex. 232, 59 S. W. 541; Kinney v. Zimpleman, 36 Tex. 582; Southern R. Co. v. Kay, 62 S. C. 28, 39 S. E. 785; U. S. v. Erie R. Co., 107 U. S. 1, 2 Sup. Ct 83, 27 In Ed. 385.

Assessment, as used in juxtaposition with taxation in a state constitution, includes all the steps necessary to be taken in the legitimate exercise of the power to tax. Hurford v. Omaha, 4 Neb. 336. Assessment is also popularly used as a synonym for taxation in general,—the authoritative imposition of a rate or duty to be paid. But in its technical signification it denotes only taxation for a special purpose or local improvement; local taxation, as distinguished from general taxation; taxation on the principle of apportionment according to the relation between burden and benefit. As distinguished from other kinds of taxation, assessment? are those special and local impositions upon property in the immediate vicinity of municipal improvements which are necessary to pay for the improvement, and are laid with reference to the special benefit which the property is supposed to have derived therefrom. Hale v. Kenosha, 29 Wis. 599. And see Ridenour v. Saffin, 1 Handy (Ohio) 464; Roosevelt Hospital v. New York, 84 N. Y. 108, ll2; King v. Portland, 2 Or. 146; Reeves v. Wood Co.unty, 8 Ohio St 338; Wood v. Brady, 68 Cal. 78, 5 Pac. 623, 8 Pac. 599.

Taxes are impositions for purposes of general revenue, while assessments are special and local impositions upon property in the immediate vicinity of an improvement, for the public welfare, which are necessary to pay for the improvement and made with reference to the special benefit which such property derives from the expenditure. Palmer v. Stumph, 29 Ind. 329.

A special assessment is a charge in the nature of a tax, imposed for the purpose of paying the cost of a local improvement in a municipal corporation, and levied only on those parcels of real property which, by reason of the location of such improvement, are specially bene-fitted by it. Village of Morgan Park v. Wis-wall, 155 111. 262, 40 N. E. 611; Wilson v. Auburn, 27 Neb. 435, 43 N. W. 257; Raleigh v. Peace, 110 N. C. 32. 14 S. E. 521, 17 L. R. A. 330; Sargent v. Tuttle, 67 Conn. 162, 34 Atl. 1028, 32 L. It. A. 822.

Assessment and tax are not synonymous. An assessment is doubtless a tax, but the term implies something more; it implies a tax of a particular kind, predicated upon the principle of equivalents, or benefits, which are peculiar to the persons or property charged therewith, and which are said to be assessed or appraised, according to the measure or proportion of such equivalents; whereas a simple tax is imposed for the purpose of supporting the government generally, without reference to any special advantage which may be supposed to accrue to the persons taxed. Taxes must be levied, without discrimination, equally upon all the subjects of property; whilst assessments are only levied upon lands, or some other specific property. the subjects of the supposed benefits; to repay which the assessment is levied. Ridenour V. Saffin, 1 Handy (Ohio) 464.

In corporations. Instalments of the money subscribed for shares of stock, called for from the subscribers by the directors, from time to time as the company requires money, are called "assessments," or, in England, "calls." Water Co. v. Superior Court, 92 Cal. 47, 28 Pac. 54, 27 Am. St. Rep. 91; Spangler v. Railroad Co., 21 III. 278; Stewart v. Publishing Co., 1 Wash. St. 521, 20 Pac. 605.

The periodical demands made by a mutual insurance company, under its charter and bylaws, upon the makers of premium notes, are also denominated "assessments." Hill v. Insurance Co., 129 Mich. 141, 88 N. W. 392.

Of damages. Fixing the amount of damages to which the successful party in a suit is entitled after an interlocutory judgment .has been taken. Assessment of damages is also the name given to the determination of the sum which a corporation proposing to take lands for a public use must pay in satisfaction of the demand proved or the value token.

In insurance. An apportionment made in general average upon the various articles and interests at risk, according to their value at the time and place of being in safety, for contribution for damage and sacrifices purposely made, and expenses incurred for escape from impending common peril. 2 Phll. Ins. c. xv.
-- Black's Law Dictionary
Legal Definition
Valuation for taxation or contribution; taxation; levying a contribution; ascertainment; estimation. See Ann. Cas. 1912D, 22; also 27 Am. St. Rep. 91.
-- Ballentine's Law Dictionary