There are two sides to people’s relationship with property taxes. In general, homeowners despise them and often resent forking over the money. On the other hand, local governments wouldn’t survive without the funds they get from them.
Property taxes never go away so long as you own personal property. Your property tax is assessed by your local government each reappraisal year.
Are you frustrated by your current tax assessment? You have the right to dispute it.
Step One: Contact Your Tax Assessment Office
Even though the process of disputing your property taxes varies from county to county, the overall appeals process has similarities across the nation.
The first step is to contact your local tax assessment office*. Inform the person you speak to over the phone or in-person that you would like to dispute your tax assessment. The county representative can provide you with all the details you need to get started.
*Once you receive your property tax bill in the mail, review it ASAP. Most county appeals processes have a deadline for filing an appeal, so you will want to act swiftly.
Step Two: Prepare Your Argument
As previously mentioned, the rules differ from county to county. However, the general rule is you will eventually go before a review board that will consider your dispute.
In order to put forth a good argument, you need to build your defense. If you are unsatisfied with your tax assessment, it is important to understand how the assessments are calculated.
Things you need to ask yourself and figure out include:
● What is the fair market value of the property? Or the amount a buyer would reasonably pay for the property.
● What is the class of the property? The usual designations are residential, commercial, farm, etc.
● How developed is the land? It will impact property value.
Another way to prepare for the tax dispute is to find comparable properties in your county. If other properties sold recently, you can use those sale prices as evidence of the “fair market value”.
Then you can double-check to see if the tax assessment on any of those properties was lower than yours. If so, that is more evidence in favor of your appeal.
Step Three: Get Your Own Appraisal
A county appraiser handles your tax assessment. If you think the assessor valued the property too high, you can always get your own independent appraisal. It is a good idea if you plan to dispute the tax assessment because an independent appraisal could be more in-line with your value estimate.
Step Four: Meet with the Assessor
You are allowed to schedule a meeting to dispute the assessment with the original assessor. The meeting can potentially solve any simple errors, like the assessor making an honest mistake or not having all the relevant information to change the assessment.
Some offices require you to file a complaint before you are allowed to meet with the assessor. To find out for sure, you can contact your local government office and ask for more details.
During the meeting, you should ask every question you can think of, including the exact details on how the assessment was conducted.
This is where the early preparation comes in handy. Often, it is something simple like the assessor believing you have more bathrooms than you do, or not accurately gauging the age of the home. As a result, you may want to invite the assessor back out to the property and give them permission to enter.
Sometimes during the first assessment, the assessor has to rely on his or her judgement if interior access is not granted or available. Other times, the assessor conducts a “mass assessment” and doesn’t even attempt to visit each property in the area.
Step Five: Enter Appeals
If the assessor decides to stand by his or her original assessment, you can move forward with the appeal. Once again, each county has its own appeals process. You can get the information you need when you meet with the original assessor on how to move forward.
During this step, you may want to consider getting legal representation. Experienced tax attorneys can help study your case and let you know your odds of winning an appeal.
The problem with appeals on tax assessments is if you lose, your property taxes could increase. Consequently, you want to make sure you have a valid, strong case and a tax attorney is the best expert to help.
Step Six: Attend the Hearing
Once you reach a review board for your appeal, you will want every bit of evidence to help support your side of the argument. Once again, having an experienced tax attorney can be the difference between a favorable outcome or not so favorable outcome.
The hearing will provide your side an opportunity to present a case and the original assessor may also attend and present their side as well. The board members will likely ask you a series of questions to clarify items that were presented as evidence.
It is worth noting the appeals process can carry on for some time. After you appeal to the local board, you also have the option of appealing to a state board or state court. Your tax attorney can help let you know whether or not this is a good idea.
Do you need representation for your tax assessment dispute? It helps to have experience on your side. Contact Levy & Associates for a free initial consultation.
We are available at 800-TAX-LEVY, or visit www.levytaxhelp.com.