by Nancy Osborne, COO of ERATE®
Reducing your property tax assessment is not an easy task. After all the taxing authorities are hungrier for revenue each year and consequently tax assessors are under increasing pressure to keep the tax rolls at the highest possible level to keep the funds rolling in. However if you feel strongly that your property has been over-assessed, you can do something about it rather than simply accepting it as part of the downside of property ownership. It is possible to put together a winning case for a tax appeal and the key is presenting all the information so it points in the same direction.
Taxpayers may hastily look at the change in value from one year to the next and if they don't see a significant increase in their assessment then they conclude it's fair and they shouldn't bother to further evaluate it let alone consider contesting it. However one should always make a practice of comparing their assessed value with the fair market value of their property.
Note that if in fact the assessor's value is off, it may better serve the needs within that jurisdiction to determine any over-assessments sooner rather than later as this could mean having to refund taxpayer money after it has already been dispersed. If a refund is eventually determined to be due to a taxpayer, the municipality could end up shouldering the burden of paying the refund if the funds have already been transferred within the county or on to the school district. By correcting and reducing the assessed value prior to collecting the funds, the municipality could then avoid the cost of having to issue a refund where it may have already disbursed funds it no longer directly benefits from, thus resulting in no real gain to that municipality.
It is advisable to appeal the assessed value within the year it's believed to have been miscalculated. Be prepared to provide meaningful data to the assessor regarding the market value of the property. When a taxpayer has prepared a well researched market report before meeting with the assessor, they are laying the ground work to achieve a successful change in their assessment. The other half of the appeal could hinge on uncovering any inaccuracies in the assessor's appraisal. This is best accomplished by narrowing the focus of the inquiry to only specific areas in dispute and to expose any factual errors in the assessor's report. Seek the assistance of a property tax professional, an appraiser or an attorney to guide you in collecting and presenting information to make a case for over-assessment.
A well timed, well presented appeal can result in significant long term benefits to a property owner even after the market has recovered and property values are on the rise because once the assessed value is brought down, this now becomes the new basis for all future increases. Beginning from a new more realistic starting point means that future increases will likely be easier to withstand.
It is very important to note that each state and county has its own process for calculating and determining property taxes. The process for appeals also varies by state and county so you need to familiarize yourself with the procedures within your state as well as the specifics of your county before initiating any appeals strategy.
California Guide – see publication 30
Florida Guide – check guidelines for your specific county
Nancy Osborne has had experience in the mortgage business for over 20 years and is a founder of both ERATE, where she is currently the COO and Progressive Capital Funding, where she served as President. She has held real estate licenses in several states and has received both the national Certified Mortgage Consultant and Certified Residential Mortgage Specialist designations. Ms. Osborne is also a primary contributing writer and content developer for ERATE.
"I am addicted to Bloomberg TV" says Nancy.