How to Challenge Property Taxes

The value of homes has been dropping steadily throughout most of the country. While that might not bode well for most property owners, it might also represent a small opportunity.  Despite the decrease in home values, most property taxes have not decreased to reflect the change in value. Since property taxes are somewhat based on the value of a home, it seems many people are paying taxes which are too high for the homes they live in.  If you feel you’re property taxes are too high, here are some tips for challenging property taxes:

How to Challenge Property Taxes

Contact Your Local Tax Assessor’s Office

Your first step for challenging your property taxes is to visit or call your local tax assessor’s office. You can find the phone number in the government pages of the local phone book, or on your town’s website.  Ask them when you can challenge your property taxes, since it can’t be done too early in the year or too late after property tax bills are mailed.

Tax Assessment Letter

By law, you should receive a notice in the mail which indicates your tax assessment value of your home for the year.  Despite the fact that it’s required by law, it may be a good idea to fill out a Property Tax Return form at the Assessor’s office to request your tax assessment value.  This at least makes the office aware you are looking to get this information, and will help you get the process moving.

Challenge the Tax Assessment of Your Property

Once you receive your tax assessment letter, you can file an appeal if you disagree with the state’s assessed value of your home.  You must write a letter and send it to your Tax Assessor’s office within 45 days of receipt of your Tax Assessment letter to file your appeal.

In the letter, indicate why you disagree with the assessment and provide some evidence.  You can have your home appraised to get the current appraisal value of your home.  This service will cost between $300 and $500 for most homes.





In addition, you’ll want to include sale prices of homes in your area which are comparable in size to your own home.  If your home is assessed at $190,000 and you show that four homes near by of similar size just sold for $160,000 – you’ll have a decent case to support your appeal.  You can probably find a real estate agent who has software and can run a report for you fairly quickly if you ask.

Once you have your letter and proof, send it all back to the Tax Assessor’s office and wait for a reply.  They will either agree with you and modify your property tax bill, or stand by their original assessment.

What Happens If They Deny Your Appeal?

If the Tax Assessor’s Office doesn’t accept your proof or request for modifying your property taxes,  you can write them again and say you still do not agree which will prompt them to do further research and another letter will be sent to you with their final decision of the case.  If they still don’t agree with your reason for appealing property taxes, you can get all of your proof together and make an appearance in front of the county’s Board of Commissioners.  Here, you can once again state your reason for challenging the property taxes, and see what they decide.  The Board of Commissioners decision will be the non-disputable decision of the case.

Some cities and counties are hurting for cash due to the challenging economy, so many people are having mixed results with these efforts. That said, it doesn’t hurt to try. You just might save a few hundred dollars per year on your taxes.




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Date published: September 24, 2010.

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Ryan Guina is the founder and editor of this site. He is a writer, small business owner, and entrepreneur. He served over 6 years on active duty in the USAF and is currently serving in the IL Air National Guard. He also writes about money management, small business, and career topics at Cash Money Life. You can also see his profile on Google.

Comments

  1. You might want to mention that there is usually a lag (1-2 years) between assessed values and actual values. Thus, you may be getting taxed on a 2 year old assessed value. This doesn’t help those suffering in today’s economy. The silver lining should be that in two years, when the assessed value equals today’s reduced value, your tax assessment will be much lower and hopefully the economy, much better.

    • That’s a good point, Ali. That is the exact reason people should challenge their taxes, because it is possible in many places to have your tax assessment changed out of cycle. We challenged our taxes once when our home wasn’t due for another assessment for 2 years. So we paid taxes on the lower home price two years earlier than if we would have waited.

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