While paying the tax itself is par for the course for homeowners, and other property owners, one issue that many property taxpayers typically have to deal with is an inflated assessment, which usually leads to higher tax bills.
The good thing is, you can actually appeal your property tax assessment if you think that the local government has assessed your property’s value too high. Successful property tax appeals can lead to lower property taxes and savings of hundreds of dollars annually, or even thousands of dollars in future taxes.
So, if you think your tax assessment is a bit off, here are some tips on how to appeal your property taxes.
Review Your Tax Assessment Carefully
Before you file an appeal, review your annual tax assessment as carefully as you can. Be sure you understand how the bill is calculated, so you can point out in your appeal that there’s something wrong with the final computation.
You also need to check if the facts laid out in your assessment are accurate, like the square footage of your property or the number of rooms in your house. Take note of these errors and present them to the assessor, because these facts may just help lower your property tax assessment.
Compare Your Property to Neighbors
It’s entirely possible for your property tax assessment to be higher than that of other homes in your neighborhood with practically the same square footage, age, and the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, among other things. So, do some research and get some details about your neighbors’ homes.
You can start by identifying comparable properties in your neighborhood, particularly ones that have been sold recently. Once you’ve done that, access the public databases maintained by local governments and check the assessments made on those properties.
If their assessments are lower despite their similarities with your property, then you have a solid case for an appeal. By presenting data on similar properties in your area, you can argue that your home was not comparably assessed, which could lead to a lower property tax bill.
What if their assessments are similar to yours? You may still have a case for relief based on equity if you can show that your property is inferior to the comparable properties. Take note of any additions and improvements those properties have made to establish that they are, indeed, superior to yours, rendering your property no longer comparable to them.
Hire an Independent Appraiser
You can strengthen your appeal if you include a market evaluation made by an independent appraiser. Sure, it’s going to cost you a couple of hundred dollars or so, but as long as the comparative home appraisal is done by a credible, third-party expert, especially one with national certification, your appeal will carry more weight than an appraisal performed by a local real estate agent.
See If You Qualify For Exemptions
Are you a senior citizen? Did you serve in the military? Is your property agricultural in nature? If your answer to any of these questions is yes, then you just might be eligible for exemptions, that is, if you live in a state or municipality that eases the tax burden for people who fall into the categories mentioned above.
Exemptions and tax breaks may also be open to widows and widowers, volunteer firefighters, and those with disabilities, so check with your local government if they offer such incentives and see if you qualified for any of them.
Keep Your Emotions In Check
It’s but natural for your blood pressure to soar upon receipt of a sky-high tax bills assessment, especially if you think the evaluation was decidedly unfair.
However, if you’re planning on filing an appeal, you have to keep your emotions in check. You may have a strong case, but your feelings can muddle up everything.
When you’re appealing your property tax assessment, it’s always best to stick to the facts. Whatever concrete facts and information your research dig up that supports your position, always present them to the tax authorities in a straightforward manner.
Be a Stickler For The Rules
No matter how well-prepared you are for your property tax appeal, it will be all for naught if you fail to follow procedures or present everything before the set deadlines. The procedures and deadlines tax authorities have established for appeals are very precise, so if you want your case heard the soonest possible time, strive to meet them. If you don’t follow the rules for whatever reason, prepare yourself for the possibility that your appeal will have to wait for another year before it gets heard.
Always approach acquainting yourself with the appeal process requirements and deadlines with the same enthusiasm you had for building up your tax appeal case.
Upon receipt of your assessment notice—which local governments typically send to property owners early in the year—check and take note of the deadline for challenging it. Visit the relevant websites to get the information you need. Call the local officials concerned for good measure.
Talk to an Attorney
Any effort on your part to research to support your tax appeal is excellent. However, you might want to consider getting the services of a lawyer who specializes in property tax appeal work. An attorney with an extensive background in real estate valuation and experience in dealing with appraisers and tax authorities can ensure that your tax assessment appeal will be ironclad in all respects.
Hopefully, the tips above will help you put together the most persuasive case possible. As long as you have a solid case, your appeal will stand an excellent chance of resulting in a reduction in your property tax bill not only for the current year but also for years to come.
Appealing your property tax assessment to get your bill lowered is not easy but can be done when you have a solid game plan in place.
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About the Author: The above article on tips for appealing your property taxes was written by Lauren Summers. Lauren is the Content Marketing Strategist for Miller, Miller & Canby, one of the most respected law firms in Montgomery County and the Washington, DC metropolitan area.
The firm focuses on five core areas of practice: Land Development, Real Estate, Litigation, Business and Tax, and Trusts and Estates Law. In her spare time, she reads books and plays board games with her husband and two kids.