Property taxes are something few like to pay and which causes disgruntlement when opening the tax bill. Mistakes can be made by the county or municipal taxing authority that leads to a higher tax bill. But there is a means of disputing the tax bill.
Most taxing authorities have a board or commission created specifically for hearing tax appeals. Often they have created literature that explains how to appeal. If not, contact the office that sent the tax bill. But first, the property owner needs to determine whether or not they have an issue to dispute. They have to determine whether the tax amount is correct.
Understand How the Tax was Calculated
This step is crucial to decide whether an appeal should be made. A little research by the property owner can go a long way to decide whether or not their property tax is the correct amount.
All property taxes have several factors to determine the amount of the tax. These include the assessed value of the property, the tax rate, the property classification and exemptions. Property taxes are based on an ad valorem basis, or based as a percentage of the property value. The property is given an assessed value based on some type of market rate.
The tax rate is then multiplied by the assessed value or a percentage of the assessed value. Exemptions may be applicable to cut the taxable amount or reduce the assessed value of the property. Once a property owner understands how these factors are used by their taxing jurisdiction, they can then look for possible mistakes.
If an exemption was not applied, the appeal is easier to handle. The party should show why they are entitled to an exemption, whether a veteran's exemption, senior citizen exemption, etc. It can then be credited to their tax bill. Likewise, if the authority used a tax rate different than the property's classification, the appeal will be uncomplicated. For instance, if the party was taxed at a commercial rate but it is residential property, the appeal will focus only on that issue.
Know the Appeal Process
There may be information on how to appeal on the annual tax statement. If not, contact the treasurer or tax assessor as soon as possible. Pay attention to deadlines. Most will give a short period for when an appeal may be filed. It can be as short as 30 to 90 days. Make sure the appeal is filed at the correct office.
It may be a good idea to make sure taxes are current. Taxes may be paid "under protest", meaning you are paying the tax, but do not waive any appeal rights. If the appeal is successful, the taxing authority will refund the overcharged part to the taxpayer. If necessary, a property tax loan company may provide financing to pay the current taxes.
Appealing the Assessed Value of the Property
The majority of property tax appeals involve a disagreement over the assessed value of the property.
Ask for the appraisal or assessment conducted by the taxing authority. Pay attention to whether they were correct in things like square footage of the property and buildings, whether they have the correct number of rooms, baths, foundation, etc. These may have an effect on the assessed value.
Then review the comparative sales properties listed if arguing an incorrect comparison was made with a recent sale property, obtain written evidence showing the differences in the properties. Obtain other comparable sales that better reflect the value of the subject property. This will take some research and driving around the neighborhood. A realtor may provide a listing, the county may provide one or the taxpayer can attempt to compile their own list.
Photographic evidence can be very useful in a property tax appeal. This is especially true where the building style or quality of construction materials come into play. If the tax appeal board allows photos to be displayed digitally, find out what process they use, whether Power point, a slideshow or providing a disc. At the very least, have photographs printed off on a quality color printer.
Arguing at the Hearing
Stay on topic. The taxpayer needs to remember why they are at the hearing and to stay focused. Statements such as "what am I getting for my tax dollar?" aren't relevant to the appeal, and will probably annoy the hearing panel. Stay with the facts of the issue before them. Have your written evidence organized with extra copies ready to present to the appeal board or commission. Have copies of the applicable tax codes copied and available for review. If the property owner is not used to public speaking, practice before the hearing. If your issues are clear and your evidence is presented in an organized manner, your chances of success at hearing will increase substantially.