About four years ago, with the housing market reeling and homes in my neighborhood selling for $20,000 less than their owners had paid for them, my property tax assessment showed that my home had a more than $10,000 increase in value.
I couldn’t believe it. My property tax bill should have been going down, not up. Later, public speculation that erroneous property assessments were being used by the county to raise revenue resulted in new assessments for everyone.
However, I could have challenged that property tax assessment. If you feel that you are being charged property tax on a too-high (or too-low) assessment of your home’s value, you can challenge the findings and perhaps see an adjustment in what you owe.
Challenging Your Property Tax Assessment
In order to increase your chances of success, you need to make sure that you follow proper procedures. The requirements will vary by state and locality, but here is a basic overview of what you should do:
- Contact the Tax Assessor’s Office: As soon as you receive your property tax assessment, call the tax assessor’s office and find out exactly what you need to do to challenge the assessment – and when it needs to be done. Most of the time, you need to follow specific instructions, and there is a deadline.
- Gather Your Proof: Once you know the proper procedure, and your timeline, it’s time to gather proof. You have to back up your challenge. You should have an independent appraisal of your property performed, as well as gather information about what similar homes in your area are selling for. You will have to pay for the appraisal, so carefully consider whether or not the tax savings will offset the cost.
- Send Your Appeal in Writing: With your proof gather, it’s time to send your appeal in writing. Follow your list from the tax assessor’s office, and make sure you have everything. Write a letter stating why you disagree with the assessment and ask for an adjustment. Then, enclose copies (not originals) of the appraiser’s results and other information you have gathered. Keep copies of your packet for yourself. Also, if you want to ensure that the assessor receives the mail, have it Certified.
Once you have sent off your tax assessment appeal, the assessor will look into your case and make a decision. You are allowed to appeal the results if you don’t agree. In many cases, there is a Board of Commissioners, or some state agency, that you can go to next. In some cases, you might even be able to state your case in person. Make sure that you are well-prepared if it comes to that.
Should You Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment?
While it would be nice to pay a little less in property taxes, it’s important to carefully consider whether or not it is truly in your best interest to appeal your property tax assessment. In some cases, if you are trying to sell your home, having the assessor adjust your home’s value lower can mean you don’t end up with a higher price.
Additionally, the costs of gathering your proof and challenging the assessment might actually be more than your tax savings. If you save $300 on your tax bill, but it costs you $500 to challenge the assessment, you are out $200. You have to be really committed to the principle of the thing to go through with it in that case.
What do you think? Would you challenge your property tax assessment?