Home prices have been in decline since the housing bubble burst several years ago. Yet the tax assessed values of homes hasn’t moved as drastically. The truth is if you’ve been living in your home for a significant amount of time and your neighborhood or city has been hit hard with tanking real estate values, you are probably paying too much in property taxes. Wouldn’t you like to do something about that?
Photo by danielmoyle via Flickr
Your specific state and city will have its own rules on fighting for a lower property tax assessment, but these steps are pretty universal.
You should receive a paper copy of your current assessment every year. Once you receive the updated assessment in the mail and decide you would like to appeal, you need to check for when your appeal deadline is. If it isn’t on the document that was mailed to you, check the local municipality’s assessment page.
To successfully fight your property tax assessment you need to know how your current home was valued. What does the actual assessment say about your home? You can either go online to the local assessment office’s website to pull your report; otherwise you will need to go in person to request a copy.
Once you have the assessment in front of you, it is time to comb over it for inaccuracies. Is your home accurately represented in terms of square footage, age, and extra amenities? Or are you listed as having 3.5 baths rather than 2.5? The inaccuracies can drive up the assessed value of your home and result in more taxed owed than is necessary.
Also be sure to compare your home to those around it. There are two critical comparions to make:
The larger the sample size of homes that are similar to yours but are valued less on the per square foot scale, the better.
Now that you’ve gathered all of your facts, it is time to request a meeting with your local tax assessment office. This is an informal meeting; you don’t need to bring a lawyer or anything like that. Be prepared to have a nice, informal conversation.
Before you go to your informal appeal meeting, properly document and organize all of your documentation. Take photos of the homes that are similar to yours but that are valued less. Take photos of the inside of your home to document its condition and the number of rooms.
If your appeal is turned down from your informal meeting, it is time to escalate to the local tax board. The concept is the same: bring your documentation, be prepared to discuss your case; you’re just taking it to a higher level.
If your appear is turned down from the local board, your last remedy is to appeal to a state tax board.
If your appeal is turned down at the state tax board, accept your fate of paying higher taxes. You’ve done your due diligence in trying to lower your taxes and have been turned away at each opportunity.
Fighting for lower property taxes doesn’t just benefit you. Obviously you are trying to lower your monthly and annual tax cost, which does help you. But fighting for lower property taxes benefits your neighbors and citizens of your municipality. Taking in more tax revenue than they are due allows local governments to overspend in ways that wouldn’t be possible if they had lower tax revenues. Some argue that local governments can use all the help they can get when it comes to tax revenue. But accurate tax revenue also forces government leaders to make tough decisions on budgeting rather than always relying on increasing tax revenues every year.
So fight not just for your own benefit, but for your fellow citizens’ benefit as well.
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