With spring in the air comes the opportunity to appeal your property taxes. Not everyone needs to do this and, of course, you should weigh the costs vs the payoff, but if it can save you thousands, it may be worth the fight. If you feel like your most recent tax assessment was abnormally high, that may be because it was. Sometimes incorrect information on your tax records can negatively affect your property tax assessment.
In fact, one of the most common reasons properties are improperly taxed is due to incorrect information. Problems may arise when a property is listed with more square footage, bedrooms, or land size than there actually is. Older homes particularly struggle with this problem because of the number of people that have had their hands on these records. The more these records are updated and passed along, the easier it is to see 2300 square feet be transposed to 3200 square feet. The key to successfully fighting your property taxes is to know what your tax assessor thinks. If the assessor’s office believes there to be extra square footage that definitely does not exist, it shouldn’t be a difficult battle to win.
An important item to note is the time period in which you have to appeal. Each county has its own window; you can’t just appeal on a whim. You’ll need to pick up the phone and make live contact with your tax assessor because only they are the ones that can tell you about any changes in the way taxes are being handled that year and what deadlines you’ll need to meet.
Keep in mind, certain people have earned the right to reduced property taxes. A few ways you might already qualify for an exemption are:
Homesteading – in some places, simply living in your home is reason enough for an exemption.
Seniors and disabled people – many high tax areas specifically have rules protecting seniors and the disabled.
Veterans – Vets who have surved during wartime often qualify for a property tax exemption (provided they were honorably discharged).
Remodeling – some areas are willing to let you work your way to an exemption.
Green housing – some (environmentally-friendly) areas will happily exclude the value of your green improvements from your tax assessment.
So what if you don’t qualify for an exemption and you haven’t found any errors in your tax records, but you still feel your tax bill is unreasonably high?
You can still fight. Be advised this is a much more difficult war to wage and you’ll need to come armed with a current appraisal, comparative market analysis, and documentation of any damage done to the home since the last assessment.
Once you’ve submitted and/or presented your case, don’t expect an answer right away. This is the government we’re talking about. Be prepared to wait several months before hearing an answer. Keep copies of all documentation provided and hold on to your patience. Keep in mind, what you’re appealing isn’t your tax rate; it is the assessed value of your home. The same tax rate applies, just to a lesser valued property. So while this may help you pay less in taxes, it can also hurt your ability to sell your home or refinance.