How to Challenge Your Property Tax Bill

Are your property taxes eating up a considerable part of your budget? Is your bill high even as your home value has dropped? Do you dread the time of year when your property tax bill arrives? According to the National Taxpayers Union, as many as 60% of properties in the U.S. are assessed at a higher rate than their current value. So, you may be paying more in property taxes than you should be. The good news? You can fight it. Pete Sepp, a spokesman for the National Taxpayers Union, estimates 30% to 40% of appeals are at least somewhat successful. Check out some ways you can try changing your property tax bill below.

1. Run the Numbers Yourself

If you feel like your home assessment isn’t accurate, there are things you can do about it. It’s a good idea to take a look at how your local government assesses property, paying special attention to the length of time between assessments and how the market value of a home is calculated. Local governments may go years between re-assessments and are wary of blanket reductions at a time when the budget is tight.

Next, you can check the property assessor’s math and description of your property for error. You can also check the assessments of at least five comparable properties to find out if you are in a reasonable range. In some special cases, you may be able to freeze your assessment to prevent future property tax increases.

2. Check for Deductions

It’s important to check for any special tax deductions in your area and for your specific circumstances. In fact, there are all sorts of deductions available, so it’s a good idea to make sure you get everything you qualify for. For instance, the homestead exemption allows eligible homeowners in select areas an exemption of property taxes up to a certain amount. Further tax exemptions may depend your state, income or school district. Contact your local department of taxation or visit its website to see what deductions are available to you and find the necessary application forms.

3. An Official Appeal

If you think your assessment is unfair but don’t qualify for exemptions that could help lower your property taxes, you can make an informal appeal to the assessor first. This can be with a call or a letter that states your case. If your argument is strong enough, you may be asked to attend an informal hearing that may lead to an immediate reduction, refund, or both. If it doesn’t go that well, you can submit a written summary of your case.

It’s important to read all the fine print on your appeal form to ensure you are compliant with the requirements and keep copies of any documentation you present. The next step is attending a formal hearing before the appeals board, where you make your case in person. You may want to hire a professional real estate appraiser for an opinion on your home’s value.

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    Don’t just accept your tax bill if you think it’s too high. And don’t assume you are just receiving all the applicable tax breaks, either. Asking questions, searching the Internet, and contacting your local tax office can be the keys to a reduced tax bill.

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