How To Fight and Appeal Your Property Tax Bill

by Hank Coleman

property-tax-billThe property tax bill for my home recently came in the mail.  This is the first bill my wife and I have received since buying our home this past December.  For many Americans, their tax bill has not changed as fast as their property value has.  Local and state governments are feeling the recession crunch just like we are, and they are trying to stretch every penny they can out of taxpayers. 

According to the Case-Shiller Index, home prices fell 27% between the 2006 peak to the end of 2008.  But, municipalities collected 12% more in property taxes during the same time period.  You do not have to take the increase in your tax bill sitting down.

A few options…

Find Evidence.  Find evidence that the local tax assessor made a mistake when evaluating your property’s new increased value or why it has not gone down as fast as your neighbor’s selling price.  A great way to lower your property tax is to show records that prove that homes similar to yours have lower valuations.  Maybe your county tax assessor assumed that your home had more bedrooms, bathrooms, or an improvement like a finished basement or attic than it actually does.

Compare With The Neighbors.  If you can find at least five homes in your neighborhood that carry lower tax valuations, it will increase your odds of success.  You can find out what the Jones paid from the local assessor’s office or on their website where you can find the forms needed for an appeal.  The Federation of Tax Administrators can point you to your property tax assessor or administrator where you can get all the details you need for appealing your property tax.

Appeal A Loss.  If you lose your local hearing, you can make an appeal at the state level through a state review board or you can file a complaint in state tax court.  You can hire a property tax attorney or a property tax consultant.  To avoid hourly fees of $150 to $400, ask if your pro will take your case on contingency. Most demand about half of your first year’s tax savings.

Because many local governments assign values to properties in their jurisdictions only once every three or more years, many homes still carry assessments from the market’s peak, in 2006 and 2007.  Experts estimate that 60% of property in the U.S. is over-assessed in value resulting in higher taxes.  Requesting a change in your home’s assessed value by filing an appeal may save you hundreds of dollars in a reduced tax bill.  It is not in the tax assessor or county’s best interest to change the value of your home lower or to update property values which taxes are levied.  It is up to you, and you alone, to appeal your tax bill.

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