he soaring home prices have undoubtedly brought homeowners a sense of joy nationwide. But, with the increase in home price comes a not-so-welcoming guest - an increase in property taxes!
The harsh truth is that the increase in home prices is not always realized until the property is sold, but the increase in property taxes hits you right where it hurts - your pockets. It can be an unexpected financial burden that catches you off guard. But fear not; there are ways to appeal your property assessment and potentially reduce your tax burden.
This article will guide you through the steps to appeal your property assessment and share tips and tricks to keep your future property tax bills low. So, let's get started!
Understanding Your Property Tax Assessment
Before we dive into the main issue, it's crucial to understand what property taxes are and how they are calculated.
What Is Property Tax?
Property taxes is the amount of tax relieved on the property by the local government and paid by the homeowners. Your property tax amount is determined by two main factors: the current assessed value of your property and the local tax rate.
Your local government defines the tax rate, so you have no control over it. But, the current value of your property is periodically assessed and can be subject to change based on several factors.
How Are Property Values Assessed?
Property values are calculated based on the market value of the property. It refers to the value that the property would sell in an open and competitive market. Several factors impact the market value of the property, including :
If your property is in a desirable neighborhood, it typically commands a higher value. This includes how near it is to famous landmarks, schools, universities, central areas, etc.
The physical attributes of your property, such as its size, age, and condition, can also impact your assessment. Assessors may consider the number of bedrooms and bathrooms, the square footage, and any recent renovations or repairs.
Real estate appraisers will often look at recent sales of similar properties in the area to help determine the market value of your property.
If your property has the potential for rental income, then your property is valued higher.
What Is Property Tax Assessment?
Property tax assessments are the initial document sent to you by your local government saying that you will be taxed upon the value of your property as assessed in the paper.
Steps to Appeal Your Property Tax Assessment
If you are unsatisfied with the property tax assessment, then you can appeal for it. Here are the steps you can consider:
Review Your Property Tax Assessment
The local government mails you the property tax assessment before they charge the property tax. After you get your letter, review it thoroughly to ensure all the information is accurate and up to date. If you find any errors or think that your property is valued too highly, then you should appeal as soon as possible.
In most states, there is a limited window of time to appeal, usually ranging from 30 to 90 days from the date of the assessment notice. So, you should act quickly and appeal before the deadline.
Gather Evidence to Support Your Appeal
Before filing your appeal, gather all the evidence and documents you need. Here's what you can do:
- Work with a professional real estate agent to run comparable sold properties in your area.
- Speak with your neighbors about your assessments. If your assessment is much higher than your neighbor's, it's worth applying for the appeal. But, if it's less than a thousand dollars, it's better not to.
- Research recently sold properties in your area using local government resources to access public records. This can provide you with additional insight into property tax assessments.
- Consider hiring a certified appraiser to evaluate the fair market value of your home. Make sure to showcase the low points of your property during the assessment. This is because you want to ensure the appraiser's evaluation shows a much lower value than the government assessor initially calculated. So, resist the urge to renovate or upgrade until after the assessment is complete.
If you cannot gather the evidence and documents that support your appeal. Then, it’s advisable not to file for a formal appeal.
File a Formal Appeal
After you have collected the evidence, you should quickly file the appeal. The process and location for filing a property tax appeal may vary depending on where you live.
In some areas, Appeals can be filed by contacting your local assessor's office, submitting an electronic filing to PAAB (Property Assessment Appeal Board), or by manually completing and submitting the appeal from the Board of Review Action form – which can be found through your local department of revenue's PAAB site.
Prepare for a Meeting or Hearing
Once your property tax appeal application is accepted, you can attend a formal hearing with the assessor's office. It's essential to prepare for this meeting, as it can significantly impact your appeal outcome. Avoid bringing up the tax rate when meeting with the assessor, as you have no control over it.
Instead, focus on reevaluating the value of your home and presenting the evidence you've gathered to support your argument. Doing so will give you a better chance of lowering your property tax assessment. So, get ready and be confident; you are good to go!
- Await the Decision
Awaiting the decision can be nerve-wracking, but patience is essential. Once your appeal is heard, the assessor's office will carefully consider your argument and evidence before deciding. The decision can vary depending on the specifics of your case, but if your appeal is granted, your property tax assessment will be adjusted accordingly. But, if the decision is not in your favor, you might consider appealing further, but most of the time, it’s not worth doing so.
State-Specific Deadlines and Guidelines for Property Tax Appeals
Appealing a property tax assessment can be confusing, and the process can vary depending on the state you reside in. Here are some state-specific steps and deadlines to keep in mind:
- North Carolina: To appeal a property tax assessment in North Carolina, you can submit an application to the NC Property Tax Commission. The deadline for the NC is 30 days.
- Texas: The deadline for filing a protest in Texas is usually May 15th or the 30th day after the notice of value is delivered to the property owner, whichever is later.
- California: In California, the process for appealing property tax assessments varies by county. For example, you can file an appeal in Los Angeles County from July 2nd through November 30th.
- Florida: If you disagree with the value of your property, you can directly meet with the property appraiser or file a petition with the value adjustment board (VAB). But, if you are unsatisfied with the VAB decision, you can file for a lawsuit within 60 days of the date of a VAB decision or the property appraiser's certification of the tax roll, whichever is later.
- Georgia: You can file your property tax appeal with the County Board of Tax Assessors in Georgia within 45 days of the date the Assessment Notice was mailed.
- Washington State: In Washington State, the deadline for filing an appeal is the latter of July 1st of the assessment year or within 30 days of the assessor's office issuing the Change of Value Notice.
- Maryland: To appeal a property tax assessment in Maryland, you can fill an online petition for review form within 45 days of the notice date.
- Philadelphia: In Philadelphia, the deadline for filing property tax assessment appeals is October 4th. It's important to note that no requests can be filed for 2022 after that deadline.
Not seeing your state? For full details, check out this property tax calendar.
Documents Required to File an Appeal
While the documents required may vary based on states and your case, here are some standard documents that may be needed:
Property Assessment Notice
You can only appeal for the property tax after you have received the assessment notice. So, it should be the latest notice that you are appealing for.
Comparable Sales Data
Gather the list of recent sales of properties similar to yours in your area. You can find them from a local multiple listing service or public property records or ask the realtor for them.
Property Inspection Report
Get the latest inspection report from a professional inspector. Highlight if any issues with the house significantly impact its value.
Property Tax Records
You can request copies of your property tax records from your local government to ensure that your property was assessed accurately.
Get a professional appraisal to assess your property independently. If the property's value is significantly less than the value in the assessment notice, this report can be used as evidence to support your appeal.
Any Other Relevant Documentation
Depending on the specifics of your case, you may need to provide additional documentation, such as photographs, building plans, or legal documents related to your property.
Tips/Tricks to Keep Future Property Tax Bills Low
Monitor Your Property Tax Assessment
In most states, the value of your house is reassessed annually or every few years. During these periods, avoid making any significant home improvements that could increase the value of your property and result in a higher assessment.
Consider Appealing Your Assessment
As discussed earlier, appealing your property tax assessment can sometimes result in lower taxes.
Take Advantage of Property Tax Exemptions
Various property tax exemptions are available for senior citizens, the military, veterans, and low-income homeowners. You can call the local tax collector's office or check in with the tax professional if such schemes are available in your area and how to qualify for them.
Make Energy-Efficient Improvements
Some local governments offer property tax incentives for homeowners who upgrade, such as installing solar panels or upgrading to energy-efficient appliances. So, check out to see if your local government offers any incentives and makes energy-efficient improvements.
Keep an Eye on Local Tax Rates
The property tax rate varies as per the location. These rates are not under your control. So, if you are considering moving into a new area, make sure to research the local property tax rates well. If they are much higher than you can afford, moving to a place with a lower tax rate can be a better idea.
What to Do if You Cannot Pay Your Property Tax Bill?
If you cannot pay your property tax bill, it's not the end of the world. Here are some steps you can take:
Contact Your Local Tax Office
Financial hardships can happen to anyone. So, contact your local tax office and explain your situation and why you cannot pay your property tax bill. Also, ask if they have any payment plans or hardship programs to assist you.
Look for Property Tax Deferral Programs
Some states or local governments offer property tax deferral programs for low-income homeowners or senior citizens. These programs allow you to postpone paying your property taxes until later.
Seek Out Property Tax Exemptions
In some states or local governments, you can qualify for property tax exemptions if you belong to specific groups, such as disabled veterans, senior citizens, or low-income homeowners. These exemptions can help you save significant money on your tax bill.
Apply for Property Tax Credits
There are property tax credits programs available in some states targeted to low-income homeowners, seniors, and disabled individuals. So, if you are eligible, you get a specific portion back from the tax you have paid over the years, which you can use to pay the tax.
Sell or Rent Your Property
While this is not the best action, if you constantly struggle to cover the high property taxes on your home, you can sell or rent out your property. Unfortunately, some homebuyers overlook the impact of property taxes when determining if they can afford a home, only considering the mortgage payment. If you find that the tax bill is beyond your budget, then selling the house and relocating to a lower-cost area may be your best action.
Rising home values can lead to unexpected increases in property taxes, but you can take action to reduce their tax bills. By appealing tax assessments and utilizing tax relief and credit programs, you can ease the burden of property taxes. While you may not be able to control the tax rate, you can influence the value of your property.
Thus, with some tricks and exploring available options, you can ensure that your property tax bill remains manageable, allowing you to continue enjoying the many benefits of owning a home.
Also read : Inflation and Its Impact on Housing Market