How To Fight For A Lower Property Tax Assessment

image001These days, it’s not unusual for property taxes to rise steeply. In many areas, real estate prices are rising at the same time that local governments are seeking more money for schools, law enforcement, fire protection and other needs.

While some increase in your property tax assessment might be expected, it’s worth a closer look to see if your tax bill has increased fairly.

 

To determine the value of a property, assessors generally look at:

  • The size of your home.
  • Your home’s condition.
  • Your lot size.
  • Renovations and improvements you’ve made.
  • Recent sale prices in the neighborhood.

If you disagree with the value of your property, here are a few items to check:

Simple errors: It’s possible the assessor made errors in the physical description of your property. He might list a property as being 2,900 square feet when it is actually 1,900. Records may say your home has four bathrooms when it only has three. Transposition of numbers is another common mistake when recording data.

Improvements: The bill may include assessments for improvements that were never made or are not completed. If you’re adding a room to your house but it’s not yet habitable, your property bill should take that into account.

Comparable properties: How does your assessment compare to recent sales prices of similar homes? Contact me for a list of recent sales to find out.

Unusual conditions: Some properties have features that lower their value, such as a cracked foundation or proximity to a noisy interstate highway.

Don’t assume that any errors you might find are new. The former owner may have been overpaying as well. Just because your rates are unchanged from previous years doesn’t mean they’re right.

How To Appeal

Different jurisdictions have different systems for tax assessments and appeals. If you think you have a legitimate claim, act quickly. Many municipalities only let you challenge your assessment for a specific period of time.

You can generally pursue tax relief in one of two ways:

1. The most common remedy is to ask for a negotiation with your local tax authority. Be sure you have documentation for your claims, such as photographs, a list of comparable sales and property records that show discrepancies.

2. Some jurisdictions hear property tax appeals or protests based on a comparative analysis. A successful appeal can lower your current and future tax bill. You may also be able to appeal past property tax bills and get refunds.

As a last resort, if you have substantial proof of an incorrect property valuation but are unable to succeed through negotiation or appeal and there is a large amount of money at stake, you may want to take your case to court.

Pay While You Appeal

You might have a good case and an excellent chance of successfully lowering your tax bill. But unless otherwise advised in writing by the taxing authority, be sure to pay your assessed taxes on time.