How To Challenge Your Property Assessment

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If your home value is dropping but your property taxes are not, you can appeal the assessed value of your home which may help lower your taxes.

Property values are down, so why doesn’t your property tax assessment reflect that? It’s estimated that between 30 and 60 percent of all taxable property in the country is over-assessed. Yet fewer than 5 percent of taxpayers challenge their assessment.

If you think your property tax assessment is off by 10 percent or more, you should consider challenging it. It will take some time, but is something you can do on your own. Here’s how:

Review your property tax rate card.

Your property taxes are public information. Your tax rate card (which you can view at your tax assessor’s office or possibly on their website) will list information about your home, such as square footage, number of bedrooms and bathrooms, garage space and anything else special about your property. Make sure everything is correct. Very often property owners will find discrepancies that can easily be updated to reduce your property tax.

Determine the market value of your home.

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If you feel your home has been over-valued, you’ll need to do some comparison shopping to see if you’re correct. Find homes similar to yours in lot size, age, square footage and number of bedrooms and bathrooms that have sold recently in your neighborhood. If the sales prices of these homes is at least 10 percent lower than what your home is currently assessed at, compile a list of examples (between five and 10) to show to your tax assessor. You can find sales prices of recently sold homes near you through various websites such as zillow.com or realestate.com (enter your address to find sold homes near you), or contact a local realtor to get exact comps (they may charge you a minimal fee for this service).

Meet with your assessor.

Make sure your assessor has all information that can help your case, including your research on comparable home prices. And if your home is in need of repairs or improvements, be sure to point these items out. Also, find out how your home’s value was determined and whether any special provisions exist in the tax laws for your state. (Some state tax laws may have clauses which limit assessment increases to a certain percentage per year from the time the home was purchased to the time it is sold—which can be great for those who have lived in a home for 25 years or more, but won’t necessarily help you in your case.)

File an appeal.

Contact your tax assessor’s office to find out the procedure for filing a property tax assessment appeal, paying attention to any deadlines. Once your appeal has been filed, you can expect either an informal review, in which the assessor tries to settle your appeal without a hearing, or a formal review which involves attending a hearing with the Appeal Board.

Don’t wait.

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Your assessor may not value your property on a yearly basis, which means your tax assessment could be from when home values were much higher. And, many governments limit refunds to the prior year’s tax bill so you may not receive all your money back if you’ve been overpaying for years. About 75 percent of all property tax appeals are successful, so take that first step to lower your property taxes.

This article contains general information. Individual financial situations are unique; please, consult your financial advisor or tax attorney before utilizing any of the information contained in this article.

Source: National Taxpayers Union, ChangeOfAddress.org, blog.valueappeal.com, TheWisdomJournal.com, Mainstreet.com, BusinessWeek.com, CNN
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