With property taxes escalating year after year, households are finding it difficult to manage the payments without any default. Across the country, property values are sharply on the rise and as a consequence, property taxes charged on primary residence are most unlikely to come down without the owners sparing some good effort from their side. Lowering or avoiding property taxes is a sure way to save on the recurring expenses of the household. To do this, property owners must know where to look for savings. Challenging property tax assessment is not an impossible thing.
However, the homeowner must know the correct process and the ways of doing it. Every municipality has a deadline to challenge the tax assessment. The municipality appoints a board of reviewers to review the disputes on tax assessments. It is necessary for the homeowners to be courteous and professional in their approach and gather enough information to back up their points. Though this process does not necessitate hiring a lawyer, often doing it is a sure way to simplify the issue. Consult a property lawyer, do a good amount of research and learn how to look for the tax breaks applicable.
How to challenge tax assessment
The entire process starts with a thorough research. The homeowners must gather enough evidences to support their point. The first thing is to look at the assessed value of the property. Usually, this is calculated based on the market value of homes in the locality during the time of assessment. Know that the authorities do not conduct an individual appraisal of the home. Therefore the chances are most likely that the market values of properties were much higher during the assessment time than now. Under such a condition, you will only find inflated figures. Hence if this could be the case, you have a solid point to defend your stand and challenge the assessment.
At the same time, be careful to go by this method. If the value assessed is lesser than the present market value, you will end up incurring higher taxes by taking the case to the authorities. You can also check if the assessment did not go by accurate information. Check the area, number of rooms and the other details mentioned on the assessment or tax bill and ensure the correctness of information. It is advisable to challenge to assessment if you find the details represented incorrectly.
Explore different kinds of tax breaks
If a part of the property is earmarked as wetlands, the home owner is most likely to find the valuation slightly lower. This means the property has some restrictions because of the designation. The property owner can consult the local property assessor to discover whether such restrictions were considered while assessing the property recently. If there is a documentary evidence of denial of a building permit by a state agency or a federal conservation agency, it can be furnished as a valid proof to request the authorities reduce the taxes.
Explore whether you are eligible for any tax breaks. For example, members of some groups and disabled veterans are eligible to claim tax breaks. Seniors and disabled persons also are entitled to some property tax reductions and also some limits on rate increases. Discuss on this with the local tax assessor and check if you have any eligibility in this regard. Also, the property owner can find out if they qualify for a low income relief. Under such cases, you can receive some assistance under the state property tax relief program. Such offerings are entitled “homestead exemptions” and are meant to give exclusive tax breaks on the basis of age or the income of the household. Though the correct requirements differ between states, the homeowner can discover the exact figures by consulting the George Washington University’s database of Residential Property Tax Relief Programs. In many cases the database has helped property owners save a big deal on the taxes and it is worth trying this option.
Make an appeal to the assessor
Humans are prone to faults and property assessors are not an exception to this. Sometimes there could be straight forward errors that have caused the hike in the property taxes. For example let us consider you have purchased the property only recently paying a significant amount lesser than the assessed value. Or in some cases, the property card might mention the number of rooms or amenities wrongly. There can also be some clerical errors while preparing the property card. If the homeowner comes across such instances of errors in the assessment, there is a clear cut evidence to represent the case and make the appeal.
There is a second but a bit difficult route to appeal. This is to say that the home was overvalued on account of the surrounding properties whereas the actual value of the property is in fact lesser. If you take this route, then you must be able to prove the case with the right evidences which is a tricky job. To do this, a realtor in the area can compare the property in question with a selection of properties that match with it closely.
The homeowner can also visit the tax assessor’s office and ask for the property cards of some other properties in the property location. Evaluate their sizes and improvements and compare them with those of yours. If the property has suffered a storm or a damaging event, a case can be made that the property is overvalued.
Whichever be the route taken by the homeowner, an appointment has to be set up with the country tax assessor to describe the findings. In most cases, this is a kind of informal meeting in the assessor’s office. This process does not require standing in front of a jury. If the case is presented very well in a clear cut manner, the assessor might consider revaluating the property. This move can find the taxes going down. If the case is rejected during the first informal meeting, then the homeowner will have to make a formal appeal for the process to kick in.
While trying to save money on your property taxes, do not forget that often challenging tax assessment is a tricky thing that might let you land on some unanticipated problems. If any parts of the property are not in compliance with the local property codes, kicking off a tax assessment challenging process may bring the issue of non-compliance to limelight and let the authorities initiate the appropriate action on the issue. So, a careful approach is needed by reading the local statutes related to properties. It is always best to consult an accomplished property lawyer before proceeding any further. At the same time, taking the right route to move about in an informed manner, you can hope to succeed in the mission and make a huge saving on the property tax bills.